An Army veteran killed during a chance encounter with a New Orleans Police Department officer in New Orleans East last month was behind a series of dramatic armed robberies in both Orleans and Jefferson parishes, authorities alleged Thursday.
Investigators said ballistics testing led them to believe that 32-year-old Calvin McKinnis, who was fatally shot by a 7th District officer on Dec. 14, was involved in as many as 10 armed robberies and attempted armed robberies at high-profile locations such as Wal-Mart stores, McDonald’s restaurants and an Academy Sports store dating back to May 2014.
In several of those incidents, the suspect used gun blasts to try to gain entry.
Authorities said someone fired 11 shots at the front door of a McDonald’s at 2916 Jefferson Highway about 2:30 a.m. Dec. 1, then fired twice through the glass front door of Academy Sports at 800 S. Clearview Parkway about 4 a.m. and finally shot at the glass door at a McDonald’s at North Broad Street and St. Bernard Avenue about 5 a.m.
They said the man succeeded in obtaining money that morning only from the safe at Academy Sports, which had seven employees inside at the time.
NOPD detectives were looking into McKinnis as a suspect for those robberies within hours of his death.
Col. John Fortunato, a spokesman for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, said ballistics testing confirmed that the Springfield 9 mm gun McKinnis used to shoot at Officer Fredrick Carter on Dec. 14 was the same weapon used to gain entry during more than one armed robbery.
When Carter pulled over McKinnis’ white 2004 Mazda minivan in the 8800 block of Chef Menteur Highway about 4 a.m. Dec. 14, he apparently had no idea he was stopping a man who may have been connected to multiple armed robberies. NOPD spokesman Tyler Gamble said the van was stopped for a traffic violation.
After McKinnis shot at the officer once, police said, Carter fired back five times, hitting McKinnis in the buttocks and back and perforating his abdominal organs and heart.
Family members said last month that McKinnis was a graduate of Booker T. Washington High School and an Army veteran who served from 2001 to 2008. They believed he worked as a security guard and expressed disbelief that he had been shot by police.
Authorities said that when they searched the minivan, they found the 9 mm handgun as well as a black, 12-gauge shotgun and shells. A black ski mask inside the vehicle also matched an item described after several of the incidents.
Jefferson deputies believe, based on surveillance video, that the Mazda minivan in which McKinnis was stopped was the same vehicle used in the Academy Sports robbery. However, investigators were not able to obtain that vehicle’s license plate number from surveillance footage, according to Fortunato.
New Orleans police believe McKinnis was responsible for four armed robberies in the city: at the Wal-Mart in New Orleans East on Sept. 7, 2014; at the Wal-Mart in Gentilly on July 2, 2015; at a McDonald’s at 10001 N. Interstate 10 Service Road on Nov. 19, 2015; and at a McDonald’s at 3025 Elysian Fields Ave. on Nov. 22, 2015.
Although McKinnis was driving a white minivan in December, the suspect in some of the incidents police pinned on him apparently used a different vehicle. According to an incident report, two witnesses at the Gentilly Wal-Mart robbery said the suspect arrived and left in a gold vehicle. In the armed robbery attempt at a Jefferson Highway Wal-Mart on July 16, deputies said, the suspect fled in a red or maroon Nissan Xterra or Armada.
The method of operation also differed in several of the incidents police have linked to McKinnis.
The suspect at the Wal-Mart in Gentilly fired no shots and wore a blue baseball cap, not a mask, according to an incident report.
A police report said that robber told an accountant, “Do what I tell you and you will live,” then forced her to fill a black bag with money. WWL-TV reported at the time that the robber made off with $120,000.
One witness to the Gentilly robbery told police that he saw the suspect enter the passenger side — not the driver’s side — of the gold-colored vehicle after leaving the store.
NOPD spokesman Gamble said authorities have not identified any other suspects who may have been involved in the robberies linked to McKinnis.