5 charged in spree of armed robberies that ended with fatal shooting at gas station

Ira “Skinny” Brown fought for his life when a band of armed robbers brought their monthlong crime spree to Inner City Oil early Monday morning, federal charges alleged Thursday.

He wrestled for the criminal’s gun, took shots to his body, fell to the floor, then pulled out his own firearm in a doomed gun battle that ended with him getting shot again with his own weapon.

This was the seventh in a string of robberies, police said, but this time, one of the accused criminals allegedly said, they had “done a lick” and “it had gone bad.”

Five men, all from Kansas City, have been charged in the robberies, including the last one where they left Brown dying on the floor of the gas station at 59th Street and Swope Parkway.

Brown, described as “smiling” and “loving” by friends and family at a vigil this week, was 33.

Ira Brown was dedicated to his family, his relatives say. Facebook

No murder charges have yet been filed, but court documents described 25-year-old Joe Lee Nichols as the robber who fought with Brown and fired the first shots.

Nichols is charged with robbery and brandishing a firearm, along with Torrence Demond Key, 25; Justin Domonique Davis, 27; Charles Stephon Porter, 27; and Anthony Payne Jr., 26.

Investigators say the men strung together seven armed robberies that included a Boost Mobile store at 5218 E. Truman Road, June 12; a Metro PCS store at 101 Hardesty Ave., June 21; a Metro PCS store at 8201 Wornall Road, June 26; the Arrowhead Inn, 6006 E. 31st St., July 2; the Wood Springs Suites Hotel, 11301 Colorado Ave., July 14; and the Arrowhead Inn a second time, July 14.

In all of the robberies, witnesses said, at least one of the men brandished a gun.

The last alleged robbery unfolded about 4 a.m. Monday, while Brown was stocking shelves at Inner City Oil.

Surveillance footage captured what police say happened next:

Nichols allegedly entered the store, leveling a handgun at Brown, who turned and tried to wrest the gun away. Several shots were fired at Brown who fell to the floor. Brown pulled out a gun of his own and fired back, the video showed.

joe nichols.jpg
Joe Lee Nichols Jackson County Detention Center

Nichols advanced on Brown and stomped and kicked him in the head and body, police said. Brown lost his gun, which skidded out the front door. Then another of the robbers, whose identity is not specified, appeared with Brown’s gun and fired on him.

“They’ve been terrorizing our community,” said Rosilyn Temple of KC Mothers in Charge, who attended Wednesday’s vigil outside Inner City Oil. “I’m glad they got somebody. I thank the police for doing their job. And I thank our community for whoever helped solve this.”

Brown was known as “Honey,” for his sweetness, family said at his vigil.

Police were able to lift a palm print from a cooler in the gas station that they said matched previous records of Nichols’ palm print. Also, a black Nissan seen leaving the gas station was later discovered on an outdoor security video leaving the home of one of the robbers shortly before the shooting.

Investigators pieced together footage and defendants’ statements in describing the previous robberies.

One after the other, the court documents describe a gunman ordering employees to the ground.

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