Excell Food Store clerks can breathe a little easier today.
Police say they’ve busted the “bagboy bandit,” suspected of robbing four Excell stores at gunpoint in the past nine days.
The arrest of the 20-year-old Spokane man came shortly after the fourth daylight robbery, at the supermarket on North Nevada.
It was the culmination of a police crackdown over a 24-hour period that netted six suspects linked to eight recent armed robberies.
“It’s been a good day for the Spokane Police Department,” said police spokesman Dick Cottam.
Among the crimes believed solved: the July 8 holdup at the Lyons Avenue Cinemas in north Spokane. While customers watched featured attractions that night, two armed robbers grabbed about $1,500 in cash from employees. Officers were searching for the bag-boy bandit’s accomplice late Thursday.
Witnesses told police two men walked into the Excell store at 3704 N. Nevada about 3:30 p.m. They showed handguns, stuffed money into a bag and fled in a white car.
Patrol officers responding to the robbery spotted the getaway car, which had the word “RESIST” stamped in black letters on the side.
They stopped the car in the 2300 block of East Providence and arrested the driver, Paul Gabel, who is believed to be the bandit. The passenger escaped on foot.
Inside the vehicle, officers found a gun and money believed stolen from the supermarket. Police discovered more cash and another weapon hidden underneath a nearby planter.
At the Excell on West Rowan, one of the stores hit in the robbery spree, an employee said he was happy to learn of the arrest.
“Boy, it was a relief when I heard,” said Mark Veitenheimer, an assistant manager. “We already got robbed, so we hoped he wouldn’t come back.”
Veitenheimer was in the store when the bandit struck last week.
“I just saw him run out,” he said. “It’s always kind of scary.”
The suspect was booked into the Spokane County Jail on a first-degree armed robbery charge. Additional charges are likely, according to police.
Officers combed the North Side on Thursday night looking for the alleged accomplice, identified as 22-year-old Jacob I. Schmitt.
The SWAT team was called out about 6 p.m. to apartments at the corner of Market and Everett. Officers repeatedly asked Schmitt to surrender before sending in a police dog.
The dog searched a couple of apartments, but the suspect wasn’t found.
Police had been tipped off that Schmitt had made a phone call from one of the apartments and was seeking a weapon.
“We’ll still be looking for him throughout the night,” Police Chief Terry Mangan said.
Schmitt is described as white, 5 feet 11 inches tall, about 200 pounds, with a shaved head and tattoos on his arms.
Besides Thursday’s robbery, Gabel is suspected of holding up three Excell stores by himself and teaming with another man July 13 to rob a Barney’s Soopermarket in the Spokane Valley.
Witnesses reported seeing the gunmen jump into a gray car and speed away after the Barney’s heist.
No shots were fired in any of the supermarket robberies, and no one was hurt.
In another series of holdups, Lyons Avenue Cinemas, a Tidyman’s supermarket and a Pizza Pipeline store were hit in a two-week period beginning July 4. In each instance, a pair of people wielding handguns robbed customers or employees.
Detectives working on a Secret Witness tip Wednesday night arrested three adults and two juveniles believed to be responsible for those crimes.
The adults are: Jon Brandon Soom, 21; Joshua Ned Tangedahl, 18; and Uriah Lee Rogers, 19, all of Spokane. A 17-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl also were arrested.
Police believe Soom and Tangedahl held up the Tidyman’s on North Cedar July 4, with Rogers driving the getaway car.
Soom and the boy are suspected in the July 8 theater robbery, and Tangedahl and the girl are thought to have hit the Pizza Pipeline on Tuesday. Soom and Tangedahl were each charged Thursday with two counts of first-degree armed robbery. Rogers was charged with one robbery count.
The charges filed against the juveniles were not immediately available.
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