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Police arrest four in series of robberies

Fri., April 29, 2005

Police apprehended four people Thursday whom they believe are responsible for a series of violent robberies of homes in Spokane and Kootenai counties.

“The community is significantly safer than it was two days ago,” said Al Odenthal, Spokane’s deputy police chief.

Those arrested are believed to be responsible for about six robberies or attempted robberies, police spokesman Dick Cottam said.

In at least three cases, robbers kicked open a door, rushed to a bedroom and ordered residents to cover their eyes while they stole valuables. In at least one case, an intruder carried a gun.

Calvin J. Washington, 23, was arrested at a house on East Wabash Avenue in Spokane. Tucero Knippling, 22, was arrested at a residence on Houk Road, Odenthal said. They were booked into the Spokane County Jail on one count each of first-degree armed robbery and first-degree armed burglary.

Also arrested was Washington’s girlfriend, Gigi T. Rhea, 23, who was booked into jail on a count of possession of stolen property. Knippling’s girlfriend, Krista D. Gardner, 34, was arrested in Clarkston and was being held at the Asotin County Jail.

In the past month, one of the women was seen outside an apartment on North Atlantic that had been robbed, Odenthal said.

Police took her name and the name of her boyfriend but did not have evidence at the time to link her to the crime.

Spokane police Chief Roger Bragdon announced earlier this week that the department was making extraordinary efforts to find the robbers because of the brazenness displayed in the crimes.

Odenthal said more than 30 police employees worked to find the suspects.

“They were stretched beyond their limits,” Odenthal said of the force. “We pulled out the stops on this one.”

Three robberies and one attempted robbery have been detailed by police. Those occurred March 31 and April 21 in Coeur d’Alene, and April 19 and April 24 in Spokane.

Police found items stolen in some of the robberies at a local pawn shop.

The homes appear to have been chosen by the robbers at random, Odenthal said.

“We have examined at length if there’s any targeting,” Odenthal said. “We’re not seeing anything yet.”

Odenthal said it is extremely rare for burglars to enter strangers’ homes when people are inside.

Washington was convicted in the 1998 robbery of Trade A Game in Spokane Valley.

In that case, Washington, who was 16 at the time, and another boy displayed a silver handgun and chased the owner out of the store, according to a Spokesman-Review article.


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