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In the recorded interview, a Lincoln police investigator confronted Shawn Brooks, the man at the defense table, about a string of armed robberies that escalated to shots fired between convenience store clerks, over a bank teller's head and at another clerk in late 2016.

The jury watched as Chris Milisits, the longtime cop, told Brooks they'd arrested his half-brother, Marcus Remus, for the robbery at the Union Bank and Trust at 68th and O streets, and he talked.

"He's implicated you," Milisits said.

"Yeah," Brooks said casually.

He said he didn't know anything about it.

Usually when people lie, Milisits said, they lie to protect their flesh and blood, not to implicate them.

The exchange, played Wednesday afternoon for the jury hearing Brooks' trial on 13 federal charges — six robbery counts, six gun counts and a single conspiracy charge — seemed the essence of the case.

The ballistics and fingerprint evidence the jury saw at trial had nothing to do with Brooks, defense attorney Nancy Peterson said in closing arguments Thursday.

The fingerprint left behind on a plastic bag at the bank. DNA on the gun that an expert connected to three of the robberies through shell casings and bullets left at the scenes. It all tied to Remus.

"The case against Mr. Remus is quite strong," Peterson said. "But he's not the one on trial."

She said Remus was a scared 19-year-old then, trying to get out of as much prison time as he could, and blames others when he does something wrong.

She said the easiest person to blame was the one the cops wanted him to name: Brooks.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Lesley Woods said that ignored text messages between the brothers and a jail call where Brooks said Remus named him but "stayed solid" by refusing to testify.

"That is a guilty person talking," she said.

But ultimately Remus did testify, and on the stand, he told the jury, "It started as a joke."

In the first robbery, at A's Stop and Shop on Nov. 29, 2016, Brooks pointed Remus' rifle at the clerk, Remus said. They traded it for a .25-caliber Bryco handgun before the next robberies, Dec. 15 at the Super C and Dec. 23 at the Git 'N Split.

In the last three, Dec. 26 at a U-Stop, Dec. 28 at Union Bank and Trust and an attempt Dec. 30 at Roc's Stop and Shop, they fired shots when clerks and tellers didn't move fast enough, Remus said.

Jurors watched videos of each, the robbers in and out in less than 30 seconds.

In closing arguments a day later, Woods said they got maybe $100 in each robbery and split the money in half.

These robberies were "easy licks" to Brooks by his own texts, she said.

"That is hardly what they were for the victims involved," Woods said.

People like Tuan Tran, Michelle Abbott and Nathan Ehrenberg, who testified. Abbott, a drive-thru teller, said she remembers the pop of the gun and sees it again every day. Tran, an assistant manager, said it was hard to believe it happened.

To hurry him, he said, one of the robbers fired a shot. Another shot went over his head and hit the TV.

Two days later, Ehrenberg was counting cigarettes at Roc's Stop and Shop when he turned around and started hearing gunshots. Four or five.

"Out of panic, I lifted my arms above my head and was startled and just panicking," he said.

When the robbers ran out without money, he was so startled, he tried to just go back to work. Ehrenberg said he didn't even realize right away his left arm had been grazed. Not until he saw the bullet down at his feet.

He was terrified, he said.

Woods said later, in closing arguments, that the victims were looking to the jury for justice.

After deliberating for about 2½ hours, jurors returned with 13 guilty verdicts, finding Brooks not guilty only of enhancements for brandishing a firearm in one robbery and discharging a firearm in two where Remus had the gun.

Brooks, 27, who showed no emotion, faces up to life in prison at sentencing in April.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7237 or lpilger@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSpilger.

Reporter

Lori Pilger is a public safety reporter.

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