By Dan Nienaber
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — A pair of trips to McDonald’s, which racked up more than $80 on a stolen credit card, helped lead investigators to four teen suspects who are now facing felony-level charges for a January robbery at gunpoint.
The first suspect was arrested Feb. 1 and the last one on Thursday as police worked their way through evidence that led them to the four, said Det. Cmdr. Matt DuRose of the Mankato Department of Public Safety. Investigators were initially only searching for two males after two Minnesota State University students reported they were robbed Jan. 27.
“We were finding out there were more people associated with it,” DuRose said.
The victims told police they were approached by the two males while they were walking back to their dorm rooms after a party near MSU. They said they were asked for a cellphone. When they offered a phone to the males, one of them pulled out a short-barreled shotgun, demanded their phones and wallets, and ordered the victims to get on the ground. The victims complied, saying the male with the gun fired it as the two suspects ran to a car that was waiting about a half block away.
The victims immediately went to a nearby campus emergency phone and called campus security at about 5 a.m.
Mankato investigators learned that credit cards from the stolen wallets were used later that day at two local gas stations and twice at a McDonald’s restaurant. They also learned someone attempted to make a $214 purchase at Walmart at about noon the day of the robbery, but that transaction was denied.
Police were able to get the license plate of the car that was used during the purchases at McDonald’s, one for about $44 at 5:30 a.m. and one another for about $37 at 11:30 a.m. That plate led them to Chudier Kong, who said she had been at a party in Mankato at the time of the robbery. She also said she had allowed 16-year-old Lojock Dech Jiokthiang of Mankato to use her car.
Jiokthiang was the first suspect arrested after he told investigators he was in the car during the robbery. He said 17-year-old Nhiam Ngut of Albert Lea and 18-year-old Emmanuel Dak Wal of Mankato were the teens who robbed the students, according to a criminal complaint filed in Blue Earth County District Court. Jiokthiang said he was driving the car and a fourth teen, 16-year-old Savanax Tommy Sdoeung of Mankato, also was a passenger.
When the three younger teens were interviewed, they all said Wal was the person who had the shotgun during the robbery, the complaint said.
Ngut denied being involved in the robbery, saying he was still at the party when it happened. He said he heard Sdoeung say they were going to “Hit a stain,” street slang for committing a robbery for drugs, as the three others left the party, according to the complaint.
Wal has been charged with two felony counts of first-degree aggravated robbery. The three other teens are facing one count each of aiding and abetting first-degree robbery in juvenile court.