Hardee’s at 6323 Independence Avenue. Photo by Abby Hoover

Abby Hoover, Managing Editor

A suspected robber is in custody following Monday’s robbery of Hardee’s at 6323 Independence Avenue.

On Wednesday, employees were frustrated by the release of a repeat offender after the most recent robbery on June 28. The location has been robbed three times in the past seven months by the same person, and this time police caught him. However, not even a day later, he was back on the streets.

Northeast resident Amanda Banda has been the general manager of the Hardee’s on Independence Avenue for two and a half years. While she’s worked for Hardee’s for five years, this is the first location where she’s experienced such trouble.

Banda has caught the man three times on the restaurant’s security cameras, and he’s made out with over $1,500 between three robberies.

The robber has never brandished a weapon or threatened employees, but Banda doesn’t want to take that chance because he keeps his right hand inside the pocket of his sweatshirt.

Twice, the robbery happened between 6 and 8 p.m., and once around noon, but on Monday it was around 3 p.m. Banda was in the back doing inventory, and one of her managers was stationed at the counter.

“My manager up front came on the headset and said there’s a robbery, and I couldn’t really hear what she had said so I’m walking up front to check on her,” Banda said. 

The robber pointed to the drawers he wanted money out of. The employee couldn’t get the register open, so Banda walked up front and unlocked it. One of the drawers was empty, but the other had $178, which he took in a Hardee’s bag and left. A customer came in amidst the robbery and attempted to order food while the restaurant was being robbed, but left before police arrived.

Banda describes the suspect as a Hispanic male between 5’9” and 5’10”, and about 140 lbs. He usually wears a blue mask, and this time he had sunglasses on. He always wears a red sweatshirt with red shoes and black pants. He has bushy dark eyebrows, and seems between 21 and 25. She shared with police that she deals with a lot of drug users on the avenue, and he’s never appeared drunk or high.

“He comes in all calm, and always comes in the same way, goes out the same way, and he’s sure to wipe down the door when he goes out,” Banda said.

While this was happening, the cook in the back was calling 911. He was put on hold for five to seven minutes, Banda said. The cook went out the back door to get a description of the vehicle the robber was driving, and they waited for the police to arrive. 

Kansas City Police Department officers responded within 45 minutes, and as soon as they shared the video, they knew who he was. Officers said he has also robbed the Taco Bell at 5925 and the CVS at 5901 Independence Avenue.

An officer went to the suspect’s last known address, where his mother said he wasn’t there. About 30 minutes later, a detective called Banda to let her know they had apprehended the suspect. She and her manager went down to police headquarters to make a report.

“He just advised me that just because we did this doesn’t mean they’re going to prosecute him,” Banda said. “The police did what they’re supposed to do but that doesn’t mean the judges and the prosecutor will do what they should.”

She checked in with the detective after 3 p.m. on June 29 and was told that they had held him for about 12 hours but they didn’t have enough evidence, so they released him.

“I’m kind of upset because he’s done this four times before, and if he’s not robbing me, he’s robbing Taco Bell, if he’s not robbing Taco Bell, he’s robbing CVS,” Banda said. “He’s done this, and what makes me more upset, the officer told me when he robbed us he had an ankle monitor on.”

While KCPD could not verify to the Northeast News if the suspect was wearing an ankle monitor, Captain Leslie Foreman said department members work regularly with probation and parole during active investigations.

“East patrol is the busiest zone in the city,” Foreman said. “Officers regularly patrol this area as time allows. Patrol officers are regularly evaluating crime patterns and trends to determine when and where to focus proactively.” 

A manager once denied the robber, saying, “No, I’m not giving you nothing,” and the robber left. However, Banda had to write him up for going against company policy.

“What are we going to do, wait until he hurts somebody to prosecute him so they have enough evidence?” Banda asked. “What are the odds of him having a gun if we say no? Our policy is to give [robbers] what they ask for when they come in.”

She said in the event of a robbery, crew members are trained to call over a manager, who will then follow the robber’s command. 

“As always, we advise that people do not try to take matters into their own hands,” Foreman said. “It is better to be a good witness than to try to take some type of action. We cannot speak to the policies in place, but we always recommend a good camera and recording system both inside and outside of a business and the consideration for on-duty security as a deterrent to crime.” 

Banda suspects the robber has been watching them through the drive-thru, as he only comes in when there are three employees – during a shift change – and knows which registers they use. Except on Monday, they had switched registers because Banda said a “tweaker” had come in two weeks ago and broken one.

The robber always only takes the bills and has them put the cash in a Hardee’s bag. On Monday he dropped the bag on Fremont between Hardee’s and Seventh Street, which the police picked up for evidence.

Hardee’s is an Independence Avenue Community Improvement District (CID) property, which is patrolled by Titan Security employed by the CID.

“I didn’t know they could really do anything about it, but they said they can get there faster than the cops, and then we can go from there,” Banda said. “I did not know that until today.”

Banda said whenever she calls them, they respond promptly, but she rarely sees them patrolling the eastern end of the avenue.

“Do they check on us regularly? No,” Banda said.

The Titan Security sergeant she talked to on Tuesday said his patrols visit Aldi at 6300 Independence Ave. all the time, and Banda asked him to have them stop in more often at Hardee’s.

“If they could just patrol a little bit better… I’m not even asking you to sit there, I’m asking you to at least pull in, make sure we’re okay, and go about your business,” Banda said. “I can go anywhere on the avenue and see they’re sitting there talking, or they’re at the BP or they’re at the funeral home, but I don’t ever see them past Taco Bell.”

Banda’s gotten the attention of the community, but now she’s looking for permanent solutions from her elected officials.

“I live in the community,” Banda said. “You’re affecting my community. Some people are there for a paycheck, but I care. That’s my second home, those people there are my kids.”

The Hardee’s district manager has put in a call to the offices of Mayor Quinton Lucas and Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, and is awaiting a response. Banda plans to reach out to the manager of Taco Bell to collaborate.

“We have charged the suspect in four robberies so far and charges are under review in a fifth robbery that was submitted to us yesterday,” said Michael Mansur, Director of Communications for the Jackson County Prosecutor’s office. “If anyone is saying we’re not filing charges it’s absolutely false.”

The suspect, Jair A. Llamas, has been named in two cases police have submitted to the prosecutor’s office this year. The first, filed on January 17, was for four robberies in January on Independence Avenue. Llamas is charged with committing a class A felony of robbery in the first degree for robbing Taco Bell of U.S. currency and Armed Criminal Action. The Probable Cause Statement from KCPD linked him to robberies of Family Dollar and Hardee’s as well.

The second case, Monday’s Hardees robbery, arrived at the prosecutor’s office yesterday and is being reviewed now for charges. In addition, the defendant’s bond in the first case was revoked this week. Since July 2, Llamas has been in custody at the Jackson County Detention Center.