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4 charged in Hillside Drive armed robbery case; preliminary hearings July 8

(file photo by Ryan Lewallen/County 17)

GILLETTE, Wyo. — Four people have been arrested and charged in connection with an armed robbery on Hillside Drive where two men were held down at gunpoint, Campbell County court records say. 

Prosecutors have charged Tanna Kirk, Eli Elbert and Aaron Wells with one count each of felony kidnapping, felony aggravated burglary, felony conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary and felony aggravated robbery. A fourth defendant, Dennis Jennings, is charged with felony conspiracy to commit kidnapping and felony conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery, per court records. 

The charges against the four defendants are in connection with a June 29 investigation into a reported robbery on Hillside Drive where two men said that a group of individuals dressed in black with their faces covered forced their way into a shop around 5 a.m. The men said they were pepper sprayed and held on the ground at gunpoint while the four defendants searched through vehicles and their pockets, ultimately taking $80 in cash and a phone, according to affidavits of probable cause filed in the case. 

One of the men later recognized a picture of Elbert, who had taken off his face covering during the incident, and recognized the voice of Kirk, reportedly his ex-girlfriend, per the affidavits. One of the men also recognized Wells, who had been to the shop before and said his name was “Bradlee” to get them to open the door the night of the robbery. 

Campbell County Sheriff’s Office arrest records indicate Elbert, Wells, Kirk and Jennings were located and arrested by deputies; three agreed to speak about what had allegedly transpired, the affidavits state. 

Per court documents, Wells reportedly suffered a seizure when deputies found him and told him he had an active arrest warrant. He was transported to the hospital for treatment and later transported to the Campbell County Detention Center. 

Elbert told deputies Kirk came to his residence with allegations of a recent kidnapping at the hands of the two men on Hillside Drive from whom she escaped by running through a field. He recalled a plan being hatched to “scare and teach them a lesson,” according to court documents. 

Elbert’s account states he and Kirk were armed with handguns, him a .22 caliber semi-automatic and her a 9mm semi-automatic, per the affidavits. He reportedly admitted to striking one of the men with his handgun — later recovered at his residence —  but denied taking anything. 

Jennings recalled being contacted by Elbert with a request for help and said that he participated in a conversation to teach the two men on Hillside Drive a lesson. He said they initially covered their faces but he took his covering off because it didn’t fit his face, the affidavits state. 

Per court documents, Jennings said that his role was to check the shop for other people and that Kirk and Elbert were armed with handguns. He recalled hearing the two men being told to empty their pockets and didn’t see anyone being struck with a firearm. Jennings did admit a phone was taken and that the four of them had had a conversation after they left about turning off the phone’s location services to avoid detection.  

Kirk claimed she had been in a relationship with one of the Hillside Drive men but that it recently ended. She told deputies her ex-boyfriend recently took her away from a bar against her will and took her back to the bar after she escaped by running through a field, per the affidavits. 

After going to Elbert’s residence with friends, Kirk informed him what had happened and that he had contacted the others with requests for help. As far as she understood, the plan was to have a conversation with the two men and believed the worst that would happen would be an altercation, the affidavits state. 

Kirk denied knowing the others intended to rob the men and point guns at them; she also denied allegations she or the others attempted to cover their faces. When they arrived, Kirk said Elbert was the only one who was armed and that he struck one of the Hillside Drive men on the head with a gun pulled from his sweater pocket, the affidavits state. 

Additionally, court documents state Kirk claimed she had tried to stop the assault. She also denied ever holding a gun during the incident. 

When asked why the others claimed she was holding a 9mm handgun, Kirk claimed the others wanted to get her in trouble because everything had happened due to her, the affidavit states. She also stated she failed to report the alleged kidnapping due to believing law enforcement didn’t take her seriously and hadn’t helped her in the past. 

The investigation revealed Kirk’s roommate possessed a 9mm Smith and Wesson handgun which was reported missing from where she kept it in her vehicle. The weapon had been loaded with ammunition but was recovered in the roommate’s bedroom without any. 

All four defendants will appear in Circuit Court for a preliminary hearing on July 8, when a judge will determine if sufficient probable cause exists to send the cases to District Court for further proceedings.