Camden County Prosecutor Warren W. Faulk, Gloucester Township Police Chief Harry Earle, Evesham Police Chief Christopher Chew, and Cherry Hill Police Chief Bud Monahan reported the arrest of a Collingswood man charged with committing armed robberies of 7-Elevens throughout the region this year.
The arrest comes after months of cooperative investigation among law enforcement agencies in Camden, Burlington and Mercer counties. It remains an open investigation. Others are being sought as people of interest at this time and further charges are expected to be filed.
Charles Walls, M/31, is charged with two incidents at this time, but is believed to be responsible for at least 9 separate armed robberies, including one in January that led to the shooting of a store clerk who remains seriously injured.
The January 10 robbery at the 7-Eleven on the 6000 block of Westfield Avenue in Pennsauken was the most violent of the incidents Walls is under suspicion of committing. The clerk working at the store was shot four times in that robbery, and is still struggling to regain use of his legs.
That incident was the only one in which a person was shot, but thereafter the robbers’ developed a highly consistent pattern to their hold ups. They would drive around the target business for up to 45 minutes before striking, and then two or three men would enter armed with a silver Ruger 40 cal semi-automatic weapon. One man would hold the clerk at bay with a gun while another man stole cartons of Newport or Marlboro cigarettes, other tobacco products and cash. In several of the robberies the assailants would use zip ties to bind the clerk during the robbery.
In each case the robbers generally wore masks, hooded sweatshirts, gloves and dark clothing. On numerous occasions an orange or reddish Chevrolet Sonic that appeared to be a 2012, 2013 or 2014 model was observed at the scene.
The robberies looked at as part of the investigation into Walls and his associates are as follows:
- January 10, 2014, 12:43 a.m.7-Eleven store located at 6001 Westfield Avenue, Pennsauken, NJ. Three men involved.
- April 27, 2014, 3:17 a.m., 7-Eleven store located at 610 Kresson Road, Cherry Hill. Two men involved.
- May 6, 2014, 6:20 a.m., 7-Eleven store located at 7800 Maple Avenue, Cherry Hill. Two men involved.
- May 15, 2014, 3:24 a.m., 7-Eleven store located at 1 East Camden Avenue, Moorestown. Two men involved.
- May 26, 2014, 1:40 a.m., 7-Eleven store located at 2 Stokes Road, Medford Lakes. Three men involved.
- June 2, 2014, 2:00 a.m., 7-Eleven at 2 Main Street in Evesham. Three men involved. Clerk saw masked men approaching the store and locked the door and the three men fled.
- June 3, 2014, 4:35 a.m., 7-Eleven store located at 2 East Main Street in Evesham. Two men involved.
- June 12, 2014, 3:33 a.m., 7-Eleven store located at 508 East Church Street, Gloucester Township. Three men involved.
Another incident being looked at took place in Hamilton Township, NJ.
At this time Walls, M/31, is charged with the incident in Evesham on June 3 and the June 12 robbery in Gloucester Township. In Evesham’s cases he is charged with 1st degree Armed-Robbery, 3rd degree Theft, 3rd degree Criminal Restraint, 2nd degree Unlawful Possession of a Firearm, and 2nd degree Unlawful Possession of a Firearm by a Felon. He was also charged Wednesday with 1st degree Robbery, 2nd degree Conspiracy to Commit Robbery, 2nd degree Unlawful Possession of a Weapon, 2nd degree Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose and 3rd degree Criminal Restraint in connection with the Gloucester Township incident. He is being held at the Camden County Jail.
The Chevrolet Sonic proved to be the clue that led to Walls’ arrest. Investigators found grainy video of the vehicle taken by surveillance cameras at several of the targeted businesses. Camden County Prosecutor’s Office Detective Vince McCalla asked the State Police for records on all vehicles of that make and model registered in New Jersey. He received a list of thousands, but narrowed it down to 33 vehicles through a laborious process of elimination that included factoring out vehicles whose color, geography or other details didn’t match the vehicle seen in the videos. McCalla then looked up how many of those 33 vehicles were involved in a significant number of traffic violations, under the assumption that a person willing to commit armed robbery would be equally comfortable breaking the rules of the road. Walls became one of the people whose name surfaced with numerous traffic violations gotten while driving a Chevrolet Sonic. Walls physical characteristics matched those of one of the people involved in the robberies.
Cherry Hill Police assigned a surveillance team to watch Walls. The officers were following him on June 12, but were forced to break off when it appeared Walls might have realized he was being tailed. This was shortly before the robbery at the 7-Eleven in Gloucester Township, and when investigators saw the surveillance video from that incident, they were able to confirm one of the robbers was wearing the same clothes as Walls was seen wearing by the surveillance team.
Walls was arrested June 13 after a search warrant of his vehicle led to the discovery of a gun that matched the description of the weapon used in the robberies. Also recovered were packss of cigarettes, tobacco products, latex gloves, zip ties and clothes that matched those worn by one of the people seen committing the robberies. Walls was charged with the robberies June 18.
All persons charged with criminal offenses are innocent unless and until convicted in a court of law.