Two-hour violent crime spree lands Detroit man in prison for 12 years

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

A Detroit man was sentenced Tuesday to more than 12 years in federal prison for a 2020 crime spree, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced.

Ivan Xavier Armstrong, 38, pleaded guilty to carjacking and firearm charges, federal court records show.

According to a criminal complaint, he launched a two-hour violent crime spree on April 3, 2020, by kicking in the front door of his mother’s home in east Detroit, damaging her phone and firing shots.

Within 30 minutes, Armstrong carjacked a retired police officer, taking the man's wallet and credentials as well as $40 then driving off in his 2003 Hyundai Sonata, according to the filing.

Armstrong was captured on camera at the Detroit gas station on April 3, 2020.

Minutes later, surveillance cameras captured Armstrong arriving at a gas station in the 14800 block of East Jefferson, fighting with someone then firing at people inside, investigators said. No one was injured.  

Armstrong was arrested hours later, after having broken into a home on Alter Road, according to the complaint. Police found him with a black Ruger handgun.

“Violent offenders like Mr. Armstrong are our focus,” U.S. Attorney Dawn Ison said Tuesday. “We are committed to bringing the full weight of the justice system to bear on individuals who are making our neighborhoods unsafe and who prey upon our citizens.”

Acting Special in Charge Josh Hauxhurst of the FBI's Detroit Division said the case was "the latest in a series of joint investigations that have seen defendants sentenced to significant federal prison sentences. We are committed to working alongside the Detroit Police Department to curb these violent offenses and to bring a sense of safety to our communities."

Armstrong, who been behind bars since 2020, was sentenced before U.S. District Judge Stephen J. Murphy in Detroit.

Ivan Armstrong's April 2020 mugshot.

He has multiple convictions, including assault with a dangerous weapon, Michigan Department of Corrections records show.

In a sentencing memorandum filed this month, Jonathan Epstein, the federal defender representing Armstrong, said his client had been faring well on parole until several relatives died in late 2019 and early 2020.

"This string of recent tragedies resulted in Armstrong’s 'escapism' into drinking and 'feel-good' street pills," including taking ecstasy shortly before the crime spree, Epstein said.

The attorney argued for a shorter sentence.

"Now sober, Mr. Armstrong has not challenged his arrest or the indictment and has accepted full responsibility for his actions with the weapon and has pled guilty without (any) 'drama,' denials or objections," Epstein said in the filing, adding his client was "better able to understand and reflect on these events and the people he hurt, and he is frankly disturbed and remorseful for what he did ..."