Police nab accused Mexican restaurant robber

William Chambers

McAlester police gave chase to two men who were seen running away from a Mexican restaurant that had just been robbed — but it turned out the two were pursuing the robbery suspect themselves.

Police later found the suspect hiding in some brush, but had to drag him out after he refused to leave his hiding place, according to a police affidavit.

William Walton Chambers, 34, is charged with a felony count of first degree robbery in connection with the matter. He is accused of using a cane to make it appear like a gun while robbing the El Zocalo Restaurant, 700 N. Main St., around 3:33 p.m. on Monday.

When the cashier didn’t hand over any money, Chambers allegedly grabbed the restaurant’s cash register and fled with it.

Chambers remained in jail Tuesday pending the setting of a bond.

Security camera footage police obtained from the restaurant at the corner of Main Street and Monroe Avenue shows Chambers walk into El Zacola, present a black cane as if it were a firearm and then demand that a restaurant employee give him all the money, McAlester Police Patrolman Chris Kennon alleged in an affidavit filed in the case.

When the employee retreated, Chambers went behind the counter, made an unsuccessful attempt to try and open the register, then took the register and ran out the door, Kennon alleged in the affidavit.

Kennon said he was in the area of North B Street looking for an individual in a plaidshirt around the time the robbery occurred when he heard a dispatcher on his police radio report the crime.

When he arrived at El Zocalo,  an employee told him the robber was no longer inside the building, Kennon said.

“As I turned to go behind the building, a bystander just north of the building was yelling ‘He’s crossing the tracks,’” Kennon continued. He said he turned to face the railroad tracks on the west side of Main Street to see two men running north along the tracks. Kennon said he started a pursuit and caught up with the two men just west of the railroad tracks, between the tracks and North A Street.

The two men, one a former sheriff’s deputy, and the other, the husband of the robbery victim, were pursuing the suspect. The former deputy showed Kennon where the fleeing suspect had thrown the cash register into some brush and then told him the suspect was hiding somewhere in the area, the police affidavit states.

McAlester Police Patrolman Chuck Sutterfield then arrived on the scene to help locate the suspect. Sutterfield found the suspect, later identified as Chambers, “hiding in the brush holding a black cane,” Kennon said in the affidavit.

“Chambers was ordered out at gunpoint but would not comply,” Kennon said. Sutterfield then grabbed Chambers and drug him from the brush as Kennon held cover, police said. Other officers arrived on the scene and assisted in the investigation. The two men who were originally pursuing Chambers “affirmed that he was the suspect that committed the crime,” Kennon concluded in the affidavit.

Police gathered the register, including some money that had been scattered, counted it, then returned it to the restaurant, a police spokesman said.

Chambers was previously charged June 24 with a misdemeanor count of petit larceny for allegedly taking three Monster Milk Shakes from Johnny’s A Street Market without paying for them.

Chambers also has seven previous felony convictions in Pittsburg County District Court, according to a supplemental information filed in the case by District 18 Assistant District Attorney S. Augustus Forster. Previous convictions include, according to court documents:

• A 2018 charge of assault and battery upon a police officer. Chambers received a five year suspended sentence on the charge on Feb. 15, 2019.

• A 2016 charge of third-degree arson. In 2016 Chambers received an eight-year suspended sentence on the conviction.

• A 2011 charge of assault with a dangerous weapon. In 2012 Chambers was sentenced to eight years, with all but the first five years suspended.

• A 2008 charge of destruction of a public building. Chambers was sentenced in 2009 to one year imprisonment.

• A 2008 sentence of possession of firearms after conviction or during probation.  Chambers was initially sentenced to a three-year suspended term, but it was later revoked for two years imprisonment.

• A 2005 conviction of assault with a dangerous weapon. Chambers was sentenced to 10 years, with all but the first four years suspended.

• A 2004 charge of assault with a dangerous weapon.  Chambers was initially assessed a five year suspended sentence. In 2005, it was revoked for two years.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com