ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WRIC) — A man convicted of a string of gas station robberies in Northern Virginia was identified, in part, by his distinctive footwear — and intensive police surveillance of his social media accounts.

Rashawn Perkins, 28, faces a minimum of 28 years in prison, but could serve up to life for the three robberies he was ultimately convicted of. He was originally indicted on 16 counts, but the jury did not reach a verdict on the first five, spanning three robberies in 2018 and 2020.

Search and Seizure

Federal agents began looking into Perkins as a suspect after a 7-Eleven in Herndon was robbed on Feb. 5, 2020. Surveillance footage had captured clear images of the two robbers, but both were wearing black balaclavas that obscured their faces.

About 10 minutes later, the same two men entered a Sunoco gas station nearby and robbed it as well. Between the two locations, they made off with an estimated $560.

While the affidavit that originally led to Perkins’ arrest makes no mention of it at all, later court filings showed that Perkins was identified as a suspect as the result of a tip by an informant, an MS-13 gang member who told law enforcement that Perkins had bragged to him about how he was going to commit a robbery and shown the informant the gun he intended to use.

Importantly, the informant also pointed law enforcement toward Perkins’ social media profiles, including Facebook and Instagram pages, where officers observed that he was wearing distinctive Nike Air Uptempo shoes — the same shoes worn by one of the robbers.

Surveillance footage (left) was compared to Instagram posts (center and right) showing Perkins wearing a hat, shoes and balaclava identical to those worn by the robber on February 5. (Photos from police affidavit)

Later that month, police went to search Perkins’ home, and saw him throw a gun out of a bathroom window as they arrived at the door. The gun, recovered later, was of the same type as the one used in the Feb. 5 robbery.

The police also found an extensive wardrobe in Perkins’ apartment. Not only did he have the balaclava, red knit cap and Nikes associated with the February robbery, police also claimed that he had footwear and jackets worn by an unidentified robber who hit gas stations in 2018, 2020 and January 2022.

Police and prosecutors attempted to match other articles of clothing owned by Perkins to earlier robberies.

The police also obtained a warrant for cell phone tracking data that placed Perkins at the site of the robberies in December 2021 and January and February 2022, however, they were apparently unable to find such evidence in the earlier cases.

Overbroad

Ahead of his trial this month, Perkins moved to have the search of his apartment and all the resulting evidence — including the firearms and clothing — suppressed on the grounds that the police had used an “overbroad” search warrant.

Specifically, he questioned the credibility of the informant, who had once lied about his gang affiliation to local police, and argued that the warrant for his Facebook account, which had been used by police to track his movements in detailed form for thirty days *after* the warrant was obtained, was unreasonable.

“Mere suspicion of a crime does not allow the police to surreptitiously gather data on every social media interaction and the equivalent of full GPS tracking,” the motion reads. “The showing made in the Facebook warrant called for a search that was overly broad and invaded spheres that the public recognizes as protected for any member of our modern society.”

The judge evidently disagreed, ruling from the bench that the prosecution could admit all of the evidence gathered as a result of the warrant. Because there was no written opinion, the judge’s reasoning was not readily available.

Ultimately, it seems the deciding factor was not Perkins’ wardrobe choices, but the cell phone tracking data that placed him near the scene of the three robberies spanning three months from December 2021 to February 2022. The jury was able to reach a unanimous verdict on those counts, but when it came to the earlier robberies, for which no such records were produced in court, the jury was unable to agree.