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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

District of Minnesota

For Immediate Release

Monday, January 3, 2011

B. Todd Jones, United States Attorney

Contact: Jeanne F. Cooney, Director of Community Relations
(612) 664-5611

Career criminal charged under the Hobbs Act for Armed Robbery of White Bear Lake Bar

A felon who was charged last week in federal court in the District of Minnesota for allegedly committing the armed robbery of a White Bear Lake bar made his initial appearance in court earlier today. The criminal complaint filed in this case charges Tyice Alexander Phillips, age 33, with one count of interference with commerce by robbery, pursuant to the Hobbs Act. The complaint also charges Phillips with one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm and one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.

A law enforcement affidavit filed in the case states that on November 27, 2010, Phillips and two other men, all dressed in dark clothing with ski masks or stocking caps pulled down over their faces, entered the White Bear Bar in White Bear Lake just before closing. More than 50 patrons were in the bar at the time. Phillips reportedly brandished a black, semi-automatic pistol, while the unidentified defendants possessed long-barreled revolvers.

Upon entering the bar, one of the two unidentified suspects purportedly grabbed a patron who was attempting to exit the building, putting a gun to his head and dragging him back inside. Then, the men allegedly told everyone to get down. Surveillance video reportedly shows the men pushing customers and Phillips and one of the other suspects pointing guns at both patrons and employees.

Subsequently, a bar patron grabbed the barrel of the gun held by one of the unidentified suspects, and a skirmish ensued. During that struggle, the gun discharged, striking another patron in the leg. The gunfire also led to chaos during which another patron pulled off the mask of the unidentified suspect, causing him to flee.

Meanwhile, Phillips and the other suspect took money from the till and then forced the bar manager, at gunpoint, to lead them to the office safe. The unidentified suspect stood guard outside the office, and Phillips allegedly held a gun to the manager’s head while she opened the safe and removed several bank bags containing cash. After grabbing the money, Phillips and the other robber fled to their get-away car, which was parked across the street, where the third suspect was also waiting. The three men then took off in the car, with Phillips driving. One of the bar patrons briefly gave chase on foot. The vehicle was a black, late-model BMW sedan.

A White Bear Lake police officer shortly encountered a vehicle that matched the description of the get-away car. When the officer turned on his emergency lights, however, Phillips allegedly tried to get away by turning into the entrance of an apartment complex. He then drove into a snowbank, prompting all three occupants of the car to jump out and run in different directions. A .40 caliber, semi-automatic pistol and a six-shot, Ruger revolver were found along two of the paths taken by the robbers. A multi-colored stocking cap was also recovered near the front bumper of the abandoned vehicle.

Authorities soon found Phillips lying in snow approximately one-and-a-half miles from the car. Reportedly, he was wearing clothing that matched the description of clothes worn by one of the robbers. Moreover, the soles of his shoes allegedly matched a shoe print left in the snow outside the bar. Officers also reportedly recovered from his pocket cash register receipts from the bar along with approximately $1,495 in cash.

Police then obtained and executed a search warrant on the abandoned BMW. In the vehicle, they reportedly found Phillips’s cell phone, photos of Phillips standing next to the BMW, mail addressed to Phillips, job and school financial aid applications in Phillips’s name, four bank bags containing cash register receipts from the bar, a black stocking cap, and a gray balaclava-type hood.

The Hobbs Act, passed by Congress in 1946, allows federal prosecutors to prosecute violent habitual criminals who commit armed robbery in places of business involved in interstate commerce. Federal prosecution of these cases is sometimes beneficial since the penalties are often tougher than under State law. Furthermore, because the federal system has no parole, those who receive federal sentences serve virtually the entire time imposed.

Because he is a felon, Phillips is prohibited from possessing firearms. He was previously convicted in Ramsey County in 2006 for felony kidnaping, first-degree aggravated robbery, and first-degree burglary. All three charges were connected to a home-invasion armed robbery. Since Phillips’ prior offenses were violent crimes, he is now subject to the federal armed career criminal statute. That statute mandates a 15-year minimum prison sentence if convicted of the felon in possession charge now levied against him. The charge carries a potential maximum penalty of life in prison. If convicted of robbery or use of a firearm in relation to the recent robbery, Phillips faces a mandatory life sentence because of his criminal record. All sentences, however, will be determined by a federal district court judge.

The first unidentified suspect is described as a black man, more than six feet in height, heavy set, with facial hair above his upper lip. He was wearing a dark-colored winter coat with attached hood, a plaid shirt, blue jeans, tennis shoes, dark brown gloves with a tan V symbol, and a multi-colored stocking cap or ski mask. The second unidentified suspect is described as a black man with short black hair, approximately six feet in height, with a thin build. He was wearing a black jacket, blue jeans, tan-colored work boots, and a gray balaclava type hood with a draw string.

If you have any information regarding this robbery or the two suspects who remain at large, please call 911.

This case is the result of an investigation by the White Bear Lake Police Department and the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Karen B. Schommer and Andrew R. Winter.