Police: Group might be gang

Five charged in muggings

Staff WriterApril 26, 2008 

— Police have charged four young men and a teenage girl in a series of muggings in Durham and Orange County.

Carrboro Police Capt. J.G. Booker said police are investigating at least three additional suspects in a recent Carrboro robbery spree and that all of the suspects may belong to a gang.

"When this thing keeps growing in numbers, it's hard not to look at it that way," said Booker. "It has grown to eight people that we're looking at. It is a very strong likelihood that additional charges will be lodged, and some of those charges may be on brand new suspects."

On Thursday, police charged Lavarus Deleon Atwater, 16, of Chapel Hill, George Lavon Gattis Jr., 17, of Carrboro, and Kimberly Carol Sue Nicholson, 18, of Hillsborough, with two counts each of armed robbery and conspiracy. They are accused of stealing a purse, wallet, cell phone and cash worth nearly $700 from a Hispanic family at Royal Park Apartments on April 11.

Police charged Atwater with two counts of assault in the incident, saying he pointed a black pistol at Jose Ayala and his 6-year-old child. They also charged Gattis with assault inflicting serious injury, alleging he violently grabbed Veronica Ayala Sanchez's purse, bruising and spraining her finger so that she needed medical attention.

Atwater and Gattis are also charged with two counts each of armed robbery and conspiracy for two incidents at Estes Park Apartments on April 5.

They are accused of taking a wallet and $35 cash from one man and a wallet and $310 cash from another that night. Police say one of them shot the first man in the back of the leg and threatened the second with pepper spray. Police have not charged either with the shooting.

"In order to do that, you have to specifically know who the shooter was," said Booker.

Police say the two teenage boys had help from a third male whose identity is unknown.

Last week, the Orange County Sheriff's Office arrested Atwater, Gattis and Nicholas Nickerson, 24, of Carrboro on charges they robbed a cab driver of $130 and shot a man riding a scooter on March 23.

Deputies arrested the trio during a traffic stop within hours of a mugging in Durham for which they are now accused. Booker said they may also be implicated in other robberies in Carrboro.

Durham police have charged Atwater, Gattis, Nickerson and Dreycell Markees Johnson, 17, with armed robbery, simple assault and discharging a firearm in the city in an incident Tuesday at the Springfield Apartment Complex on University Drive.

jesse.deconto@newsobserver.com or (919) 932-8760

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