Sunglass Hut robber got away with merchandise worth $13,750: prosecutors

Brian Willis (IDOC, Google)

CHICAGO — A nine-time convicted felon, on parole for robbing an AT&T store, is accused of taking merchandise worth more than $13,000 during the robbery of a Sunglass Hut in the Loop. Brian Willis, 35, is also accused of stealing nearly $2,000 worth of liquor from a Walgreens in Streeterville.

Willis received a four-year sentence for the November 2019 robbery at the AT&T store, 1819 West Division, records show. He has been on parole since December 2022.

On May 11, prosecutors say, Willis and two other people stole liquor worth $1,909 from Walgreens, 342 East Illinois. Chicago police officers saw Willis in the area and thought he matched one of the suspect descriptions, so they tried to stop him.

Officials said he ran, tossing bottles of liquor along the way. The cops found him hiding inside a van in a parking garage. Also in the van was apparently stolen merchandise with price tags attached, including Sox, Cubs, and Bears jerseys and two pairs of sunglasses.

The following day, Judge Charles Beach released him from custody with a nighttime curfew on charges of felony retail theft and misdemeanor theft of lost or mislaid property.

However, those sunglasses in the van may have helped police link him to another case—the robbery of Sunglass Hut at Block 37 on April 22.

In that case, two men stuffed $13,750 worth of merchandise into bags and threatened to kill the store manager if she got too close, according to prosecutors.

Working on a hunch, detectives included Willis’ picture in a photo lineup and asked the store manager if she recognized any of the men. She identified Willis as one of the robbers, according to the police. Investigators arrested Willis last week when he showed up for a court hearing in the Walgreens case.

Prosecutors charged him with robbery in the Sunglass Hut case. Judge Shauna Boliker detained him at the state’s request.

Other than his 2019 robbery, Illinois Department of Corrections records show Willis received prison time for injuring police while resisting arrest and driving on a revoked license in 2019; aggravated battery of a merchant in 2016; retail theft in 2014, 2010, 2009, and 2008; and aggravated DUI in 2010.

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