Charlotte NC December 26 2019 The Target Gang targeted Targets — from the inside out, the FBI says.According to a new FBI affidavit, at least four men have been linked to the armed robberies of three Charlotte-area Target stores this fall in which employees were kidnapped at gunpoint and tens of thousands of dollars carted away. In each instance, the bandana-masked suspects displayed a surprisingly detailed knowledge of the operations and layout of the big-box stores — from the alarm systems to where the safes were located and how to best make their escapes, according to an FBI affidavit filed in Charlotte federal court this week.
In the Oct. 2 robbery of a Target in Concord, in which $70,000 in cash was carted off, a kidnapped store employee told authorities that one of the gunmen wore gloves that strongly resembled the ones Target gives to its employees and that he used terminology that only a store employee would know. Why were the robbers so Target-versed? On Oct. 9, authorities stumbled onto a clue. It was discovered during a 3 a.m. traffic stop of a Chevrolet Impala on the campus of UNC Greensboro. University police found Damar Harden behind the wheel, the FBI affidavit says. Inside the car, they found drugs and alcohol, bank bags, more than $5,000 in cash and rolled coins, and a handgun reportedly stolen in Durham, the affidavit says.
Most importantly, police came across some employee benefits paperwork and a “Damar” name tag — all of it Target issue, the affidavit shows. Harden, they would come to learn, worked at a Target store in Durham. The search of Harden’s car also produced a purchase agreement indicating that he paid almost $6,000 in cash for the Chevy on Sept. 11 — nine days after a group of gunmen ambushed arriving employees at dawn and robbed a Target store on Albemarle Road.
A store employee at the east Charlotte site who had been held at gunpoint told police that she was surprised by three robbers as she was unlocking the door of the store at 6 a.m, the affidavit says. Inside, one of the assailants told the employee to disable the alarm and take them to the store’s “cash office. ”Once there, “The victim stated that the suspects seemed to know their way around the cash office as they took money from the safe,” the FBI affidavit says. A month later in Concord, three robbers appeared at 5:20 a.m. at the Target on Bayfield Parkway. Inside the cash room, a gunman ordered one of the employees they had kidnapped to open the safe. When the employee responded that he didn’t have a key, the gunmen referred to the employee as “the leader on duty,” a term used by Target employees.
Before escaping with an estimated $70,000 in cash, the intruders told the employees to lie face down in a hallway or they would be shot. Ten days after Harden was pulled over, three robbers struck a Target in Steele Creek at 5:30 a.m. According to the affidavit, their tactics on Oct. 19 were the same: They hid in some bushes waiting for early-morning crew to arrive. When about a half dozen workers were entering the store, the robbers leaped from the bushes, guns drawn. One employee escaped. She ran into the store and hid among the Halloween costumes on display. As other employees helped the robbers load cash into book bags, she called 911, the affidavit says. The call proved pivotal, the affidavit says. As the robbers were fleeing the store, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police drove into the parking lot. According to the affidavit, Isaiah Harper dropped a bag and handgun and ran. He was caught after a foot chase, the affidavit says.
Two other suspects escaped out of the back of the store, dropping money as they fled. In all, more than $38,000 was recovered, the affidavit says. Under questioning, Harper identified the get-away driver that morning as Michael Meeks, the affidavit says. A third suspect, Karon Golightly was arrested on Halloween. According to the affidavit, he named Harden and Harper as co-conspirators in the Target robberies. Harper, Golightly and Meeks remain in the Mecklenburg jail facing charges ranging from robbery with a dangerous weapon, conspiracy and kidnapping. Harden, the former Target employee, remains jailed in Cabarrus County.