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Hunt for collectors: how to catch Texan serial robbers armored vehicles

In 2015, Houston began to systematically and professionally rob and kill cash collectors. The search for criminals took two years, and for this FBI had to arrange for them a trap.

A policeman at the scene of a clash of gangsters and collectors, August 2016. Photos Houston Chronicle

36-year-old Redrick Batiste (Redrick Batiste) looked like an ordinary black middle-aged man: tall, lean and always with a slight smile in the photographs. He regularly visited elderly parents, lived with two dogs and paid almost all his free time to the family – the girl Buchi Okoh (Buchi Okoh) and two children.

It was hard to believe that Batista is capable of a crime. However, a year after the start of the brutal robberies and killings of the collectors in Houston, the police and the FBI established surveillance over the American. The special services believed that it was he who led the group of armed professionals who managed to rob armored cars. The history of malefactors and details of their capture was told by the magazine Texas Monthly.

Without the right to surrender

On February 12, 2015 an armored van of the company Brinks drove up to the building of the shopping center in Houston. It supplies transportation for transportation of valuables and cash, working also in Russia. Inside the building on the ground floor there was a branch of the banking company Capital One – two employees of the Brinks, Alvin Kinn and Bertha Boone, were just about to take the money out and go further.

After 25 minutes, Kinn, wearing a bulletproof jacket and carrying a pistol in his loincloth holster, rolled out a cart with money from the basement of the bank. At that moment, three masked men appeared from somewhere: the cash-collector shouted to them, but they did not answer and shot him in the head with a rifle. The man died instantly.

The partner of the deceased immediately turned on the siren of the van, pulled out the pistol from the holster and fired nine times in the direction of the attackers, but missed. Dispersing, the criminals “pressed” the woman with a dense fire from rifles, quickly deposited the bank money in a bag and disappeared on a white Ford F-250, which appeared from around the corner.

A little later, the FBI agents found the car thrown in another part of the city and concluded that the criminals had changed transport and split. Viewing records of CCTV cameras did not give anything, but an occasional witness of a gunfight noticed that one of the robbers was a black man without a mask. This is all that the special services were able to achieve – even the $ 100,000 reward that the police assigned did not help. The criminals disappeared.

According to research, every year in the US commit from 25 to 35 attacks on armored cars carrying valuable items or money. For the same time in the country about 4000 banks are robbed. For such a divergence there is a simple explanation – it is much easier to attack a bank building than to attack an armored car with security. Managers are taught in everything to agree with criminals and first of all to worry about the safety of people. At the same time, the collectors have the right to shoot to defeat if they suspect a threat. “It’s standard practice, they will not wait until the robber shoots first,” says security specialist Jim McGuffey.

But the big risk is rewarded with a big reward: bank robbers at best will manage to take out several thousand dollars before the arrival of the police, but the collectors carry with them much larger amounts, neatly packed in bags. Often two ways are used for such raiding: robbers block the way to an armored car and blow up the rear doors of a van, behind which money lies, or wait for a good moment and attack the collector with bags.

However, the case in Houston was unique – for the first time since 2002, the local cash-collector was killed while performing, although he did not even have time to take up arms or surrender. After this raid in 2015, there were two more cases of attacks on an armored car: in one worked two armed muggers masks, who, under threat of shooting, took money from the guards. Another episode turned out to be more sophisticated.

Attacks continue

In November 2015, the van of collectors drove up to the Bank of America branch in the northern part of Houston. The collector came out of the car, took the money from the office and went back towards the transport when a black man in a flak jacket came out of a parked car and opened fire from a semi-automatic rifle.

A shot from recording a CCTV camera during an attack on Bank of America. The man on the record is one of the shooters, November 2015. FBI photo

Despite the injuries, the collector managed to get to the car and take cover in the cockpit. Realizing that storming an armored van was too risky, the attacker abandoned the original transport and disappeared in a jeep parked on another part of the street.

The agents of the FBI arrived on the scene again were left with nothing – evidence was missing, and there were no witnesses at the scene of the crime. In the hope of at least some clue, the authorities appointed a reward of $ 15,000 for any information that would lead to the arrest of the suspect. The attempt was futile – none of those who called the hotline reported anything useful.

In March 2016, the cash collection machine, as always, stopped at JPMorgan’s office. From the armored van came Melvin Moore (Melvin Moore), to take money from the terminal and go further. As soon as he leaned toward the apparatus, he received a bullet wound and fell to the ground. A black car immediately arrived at Moore, but the collector managed to get a gun and shoot towards the attacker, forcing the car to turn around and leave. Then Moore dropped his weapons on the asphalt and died.

The investigator is studying the place of collision of collectors and collectors, March 2016. Houston Chronicle
The investigator is studying the place of collision of collectors and collectors, March 2016. Houston Chronicle

This time checking the records of CCTV cameras surprised the FBI more than usual – they did not see the shooter. These attackers did not act out of the way, approaching the collectors, but used a different tactic. One of the criminals held at least 45 meters from the target. From there, like a sniper, he calmly shot a collector, after which his partner in another part of the street drove up by car for money. The plan would have worked if only Moore had not had time to respond with fire. However, the attackers still safely disappeared: on the records of the video cameras there were no car plates, and the witnesses could not see the faces of the criminals.

The next attack occurred five months later exactly according to the same scheme, but this time everything turned out – the shooter dealt with the collectors, and the unknown on the blue Toyota took the bags, where there were at least 120 thousand dollars. The brand of the car attracted the attention of the investigators, since it was fixed in the parking lot of the hotel not far three hours before the gunfight. In addition, an unknown person contacted the FBI, who promised to disclose information about the attackers not for 15,000, but for $ 3,500 in cash. Without alternatives, the agents agreed.

Family man, businessman, robber

The informer, who supposedly once talked to the hijackers, named the name of their leader – businessman Redrik Batista. He was born in the family of a bus driver and a computer worker in a computer salon, studied in private schools and attended church regularly. Despite his relatively prosperous origins and upbringing, in 1996, 17-year-old Batista was imprisoned for illegally carrying weapons, and the following years the situation only worsened: he was arrested for possession of drugs, driving in a drunken state and fighting.

Personal life also did not add up – from the first beloved Batista had a son, but he died in infancy due to medical complications. Later, from a new girl, the American had a daughter, who in 2018 turned slightly less than 20 years old. With her, the man continued to maintain contact despite a quarrel with her mother.

Redrik Batista at the time of serving the term. Photo of the Houston police

Friends and colleagues of Batista spoke positively about him, noting his polite and calm nature. Even an American lawyer, who repeatedly defended him in court, spoke of the suspect as a man incapable of committing a really serious crime. In the summer of 2014, a new beloved Batista, Buchi Okoh, became pregnant, and later gave birth to her daughter Imani.

The entrepreneur moved the family to a new house, which cost him almost 150 thousand dollars. Despite this, he constantly promised his wife in the future to buy a new house, where there would be room for the whole family. As Okokh remembers, the spouse never looked nervous or thoughtful. As if I always knew how to act to fulfill my goals. “He wanted to build his life right, to have a family, than we did. We created a family and watched to ensure that our children were OK, “the girl explains.

When the secret services studied the criminal biography of Batista, they were bewildered: he had not been involved for more than seven years, as if he had long ago left the criminal past behind. At home, the American always had an ideal order: no dust, dirt or crumbs, as if the maid was following the order. However, the FBI informant continued to insist on Batista’s fault, and the court allowed the agents to begin surveillance of the alleged robber of the collectors.

At the same time, the secret services found a white Toyota, which stood in a parking lot a few kilometers from the house of Batista. The check showed that the car was stolen, and on the back door a hole was cut out – big enough to push an automatic rifle with a sight there. The agents put a beacon on the car and a few days later found out that someone had parked it in another place. Was it Batista? The investigators could not say for sure. Moreover, they still have not found evidence proving the American’s involvement in the armed raids. The solution was just one thing – you need to catch the attackers right at the crime scene.

A trap for shooters

Three months – so much time, the FBI agents watched Batista when he went to the city, and studied his house with the help of hidden CCTV cameras. The American life seemed routine, except for one thing: sometimes he met 37-year-old Nelson Polk and his uncle, 46-year-old Marc Hill. Both had behind their backs a long list of committed crimes and looked worthy companions for raids on collectors.

However, like Batista, men behaved like law-abiding citizens with family and business. Soon, the FBI got the installation of surveillance and for them, but at first it did not give noticeable results. Everything changed on November 21, 2016, when Hill came to the building of Amegy Bank in the northern part of Houston. He stayed there for three hours and left, after which Batista’s car stopped nearby.

The next day the situation repeated itself: presumably, the viewing angle of the suspects just allowed to track the movement of the collectors. After the “watch” Hill and Batista separately came to the supermarket, where they met with the Regiment. After a short conversation, the Americans toured several main streets in that part of the city, as if they memorized the route, and then parted in different directions.

The FBI agents were sure that soon the suspects would again arrange an attack. The investigators convinced the court to put a wiretap on Batista’s phone and only confirmed their fears: the group was really preparing for something. Understand what it was, it was not so easy, because Americans communicated code phrases without exact details of the plan. A new impetus to the investigation occurred on December 1, 2016, when Batista brought a Cherokee brand car back from his lease.

The day after that the investigators rented the same car and found that the American had made a spare ignition key. In addition, the agents found a hidden GPS device, and then everything became clear – with the help of his key and navigator Batista could follow the movement of the car and steal it at the right time.

The FBI technicians immediately set to work: they installed a microphone, a video surveillance camera and a tracking device with a remote engine shut-off function in the car. The trick worked – a few days later Batista really tracked the Cherokee, which was used by the new driver, waited for the opportunity and stole the car with his key. Two days later, the suspect drove into a car repair shop and tinted the car windows, and the next day parked it near the Amegy Bank office.

December 7, 2016 Batista called his wife and said that he loves her. After that he contacted his old friend and also said that he loves and appreciates him. By ten in the morning he drove up to the bank and took a sniper position, from which a good view of the entrance to the building opened. Two partners sat in the car, preparing to pick up the bag from the killed collector, and two more were nearby and watched that there were no policemen nearby.

By 11:00 AM one of the assistants reported the approach of an armored van. On a hidden security camera in Cherokee you can see how Batista took a few breaths to calm down, and then looked at the street and cynically said: “What the fuck ?!”. At that moment SWAT fighters approached the car of his accomplices.

FBI agents at the scene of a clash of SWAT raiders and fighters, December 7, 2016

Dumbfounded Batista tried to leave, but the FBI technique remotely shut off the engine of the car. Then, without uttering a word, the man came out, aimed from the AR-15 semiautomatic rifle toward the special forces and made at least one shot. The police responded by fire and hit the attacker in the leg and the chest – falling, Batista took a few more breaths, and died. The five dead accomplices of the murdered, including Hill and Polk, were soon surrounded and detained.

The FBI agents did not disclose whether they found weapons or stolen money in the home of the group’s head. None of the gang members admitted to participation in the raids – they are under arrest, but the court for their cases is still not appointed. According to the head of the police department of Houston, it is Batista and his companions in charge of attacks on collectors, which took place about two years – since February 2015. Criminal motives of Batista remain unknown – it is unclear why an entrepreneur with a prosperous business needed to create a grouping.

Regardless of the raids committed by an American, his parents and spouse call him a non-conflicting person and still do not believe in what happened. Only relatives and a few close friends came to the funeral. “No one said a bad word about him that day. It must have been not so bad, “says the mother of the gunner, as if convincing herself in the above. “He was not that bad.”

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