HARRISONBURG — A Frederick County man has admitted to robbing a Martin’s pharmacy on Jan. 18 and firing two shots at a clerk in the parking lot of the grocery store at 400 Gateway Drive off Va. 7 in Frederick County.
Carl William Morris II, 44, of the 100 block of Abrams Point Boulevard, pleaded guilty on Friday to federal charges in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg. Morris pleaded to discharging a firearm during and relation to crime of violence and armed robbery under the Hobbs Act, according to a news release from the office of Thomas T. Cullen, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia.
The Hobbs Act is a 1946 law that prohibits “actual or attempted robbery or extortion affecting interstate commerce,” according to the Department of Justice. It was passed to combat labor racketeering and is often used in public corruption cases.
Cullen wouldn’t comment on specifics of the Morris case when reached Friday night, but he said the Hobbs Act is routinely used by his office in commercial robbery cases in Danville and Roanoke. In the news release, he said federal prosecutions for gun crimes have substantially increased to help local and state authorities. “We will continue to work closely with these partners to identify violent offenders in specific communities and put them in prison,” he said.
Ross Spicer, Frederick County commonwealth’s attorney, said he was surprised when federal authorities sought the case, but supported the move because Morris faces a stiffer sentence under federal guidelines. Cullen said defendants convicted under the Hobbs Act typically face between three to six years imprisonment. The charge of discharging a firearm carries a mandatory five-year penalty.
Morris is captured on store surveillance video demanding painkillers and displaying a pistol in his waistband during the robbery, according to a criminal complaint. The video then shows Martin’s employee Kyla Evans walking out to the sidewalk of the store. She ducks and then a plume of smoke is shown from a bullet that landed near her.
Evans told police she waited a minute or two before leaving the store. She said she was surprised to see Morris standing in the parking lot by a Ford Explorer because she thought he had already fled.
Evans said as soon as Morris saw her, he fired at her and she heard a round ricochet near her. As she ran back to the store she said she heard another shot fired and she dived on the ground.
Morris was found by police lying in the woods between Martin’s and the Courtyard by Marriott hotel. A pistol and the stolen pills were also found.
In a recorded jailhouse phone call, Morris said the robbery was to get his “[expletive] drugs so I can have my fix.” He admitted to the shooting, but denied trying to kill Evans.
“I would have done it in the store if there was intent,” he said, according to the criminal complaint. “The [expletive] followed me outside, so I fired a warning shot.”
Morris’s wife told police he had formerly worked for the Department of Defense in Bogata, Colombia. She said he contacted her in 2017 and said he was abusing prescription drugs. She said he returned to Virginia last year and began drinking heavily and appeared depressed. She said the pistol used in the robbery was missing from a safe in their home, according to the criminal complaint.