UPDATE: Lancaster was sentenced to 27 years in prison on Oct. 13.
INDIANAPOLIS – When a black Hummer H3 pulled up to an Indianapolis Family Dollar store on July 20, 2019, police were confident they had their man.
And when they recovered a distinctive black-and-green duffel bag from the vehicle, they knew they’d found the person responsible for a series of armed robberies targeting dollar stores and a Subway shop in the Indianapolis area over a period of several days.
The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office described 28-year-old Jordan Lancaster as a serial robber. It’s hard to argue with that characterization, as he pleaded guilty in February 2020 to a separate 2019 robbery.
Lancaster was convicted of three additional armed robbery counts following a two-day trial this week in Marion County. Jurors found him not guilty on two additional robbery counts.
According to court documents, Lancaster hit several locations in 2019 between July 9 and July 20. Each case bore striking similarities: a man, sometimes accompanied by another person, pulled up in black Hummer H3. He often wore a black tracksuit and almost always carried a black-and-green duffel bag. In some of the robberies, he demanded cigarettes, always the Newport brand. The man also carried a distinctive firearm, often described as “large” by witnesses.
Investigators saw the same pattern time and time again.
The first robbery matching the pattern occurred around 9:30 p.m. on July 9, 2019, when a black Hummer H3 pulled up to the Dollar General store at 5210 English Ave. A man in a black tracksuit entered the business with a black-and-green duffel bag. He had a t-shirt covering his face.
The man ordered the clerk to open the cash register and safe. The employee told him her supervisor would need to do it. The supervisor, who was restocking in the back, came to the front of the store. As she worked to open the safe, the suspect pressed the gun against her head and told her to hurry up, according to court documents. She placed money in his bag; the gunman then threw boxes of Newport cigarettes at her and told her to add them to the bag.
She had trouble opening the register, prompting another admonition from the suspect to hurry up or “he would shoot her,” according to court documents, and then emptied the contents into his bag. The man got into his Hummer H3 and left with $607.43 and two-and-a-half cartons of Newport cigarettes.
On July 17, IMPD officers were dispatched to 8940 E. 38th St. for a robbery in progress. The manager of a Subway store said two men entered with guns and ordered her to open the safe. The store didn’t have a safe, however, and they forced her to empty the registers at gunpoint.
One of the Subway employees saw what was happening, jumped out the drive-thru window and called 911. Surveillance video showed one of the suspects wore a black tracksuit and carried a black-and-green duffel bag. He also used a t-shirt to cover his face. The men took about $150.
On July 17, 2019, officers responded to a robbery in progress at the Dollar General located at 2131 N. Central, police said. Two armed men entered the store with guns and ordered employees to open the registers and safe. Employees described a black-and-green duffel bag.
One of the suspects wore all black and covered his face. They took more than $1,100 during the robbery. Surveillance video again showed a black Hummer H3 parking outside the store and driving off after the robbery.
The next day, on July 18, IMPD officers were dispatched to another Dollar General located at 655 N. Shadeland Ave. The 8:56 p.m. call was for an armed business robbery. The employee told police a man came into the store with a “machine gun” and told her to open the safe. She wasn’t able to open the safe, she told him, and he had her open the register instead. The woman handed over about $150; the suspect left in a “large black vehicle.”
About an hour later, also on July 18, police were dispatched to the Dollar General at 1801 S. Emerson Ave. The story was the same: an armed man entered the business with a black-and-green duffel bag. This time, he jumped onto the counter and ordered the employee to open the safe. The employee complied. He ordered her to hand over cash from the registers; the employee told him they were empty, and he ordered her to open them. He left the store when he saw there was nothing inside the registers.
One of the employees in the store saw a black Hummer H3 parked outside. The business reported a theft of about $1,300.
On July 20, 2019, IMPD detectives spotted a Hummer H3 parked at a gas station on North Ritter Avenue. They followed it to a Dollar General at 8323 E. Washington St. The driver, later identified as Lancaster, parked on the east side of the building and sat there for a few minutes. He then pulled in front of the building and parked before driving off.
Lancaster next drove to the Dollar General at 3725 N. Keystone Ave. Dressed all in black, he tried to enter the business but found the door was locked. He went to another Dollar General at 3640 N. Mitthoeffer and parked outside. He didn’t enter the building and instead went to a parking lot near 6100 N. Keystone Ave. and sat there for several minutes.
Police followed the Hummer to a Family Dollar store at 5460 E. Washington St. Police saw Lancaster go into the store and run back out. He got into the Hummer and drive off at a “high rate of speed.”
Store employees told police a man dressed in black came into the store with something covering his face. He took money from the register and stole some cigarettes from a display behind the counter.
SWAT officers conducted a traffic stop in the 5700 block of East 10th Street. Police said Lancaster was carrying an Airsoft gun that fell onto the ground. Police did find a Sig Sauer handgun during a search of the vehicle, according to court documents.
Also inside the Hummer: 17 packs of Newport cigarettes plus cash and rolled coins that had been stolen from the Family Dollar.
Perhaps more importantly, investigators recovered a black-and-green duffel bag.
The story from the employees at Family Dollar was the same: a man ran into the store with a large gun and demanded they open the safe. When they couldn’t open it, he told them to hand over money from the registers. An employee complied and wrapped a GPS tracker in some dollar bills. The thief also stole some cigarettes—Newport brand.
Lancaster, whose clothing matched that seen in surveillance video of the theft, stole about $105 from the store.
Lancaster’s passenger told police he didn’t know his friend planned to rob the store after picking him up at the gas station, according to court documents.
As for the Hummer H3, police said it had been reported stolen a month earlier, on June 29, 2019.
Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 13, 2022.