September 4, 2008 in City

Pharmacist tracks robbery suspects

High-speed chase leads to two arrests in N. Idaho
By The Spokesman-Review
 

A Coeur d’Alene pharmacist’s pursuit of two suspects in a prescription-drug robbery spree Wednesday led to their arrests.

Police hope the arrests of Hayden Lake residents Patrick Augerlavoie, 32, and Carrie Augerlavoie, 29, will slow a rash of holdups at pharmacies across the Inland Northwest.

The husband and wife face robbery charges after witnesses at earlier crime scenes picked the pair out of photo lineups.

They were caught just south of Rathdrum after trying to elude the owner of Medicine Man Pharmacy, who chased the Augerlavoies’ green van from his business at 1114 Ironwood Drive.

The owner, who asked not to be identified because he fears for his family’s safety, said he drove at speeds topping 100 mph on Interstate 90 from Coeur d’Alene to Post Falls.

After exiting the freeway, the chase continued north through Post Falls until police surrounded the van and persuaded the Augerlavoies to surrender.

The pharmacist stayed in contact with police during the chase.

He became suspicious after Patrick Augerlavoie came into the pharmacy inquiring if the pharmacy could fill OxyContin prescriptions.

OxyContin is a powerful prescription painkiller that is addictive.

“I was eyeball to eyeball with the guy, and he had that glazed look,” the owner said.

He decided to follow Augerlavoie, and then shouted at him in the pharmacy parking lot. Augerlavoie ran toward a waiting green van.

The driver sped away, the pharmacy owner hopped in his pickup and the chase was on.

A spate of robberies has area pharmacies on edge. The target is OxyContin, an opiate that can be manipulated to give abusers an immediate and strong reaction.

The drug dulls the body’s pain receptors, delivering the same sort of high as heroin, said Derek Barnhart, manager of pharmacy operations at Sacred Heart Medical Center.

Patients suffering severe and chronic pain, such as those recovering from surgery or fighting cancer, are candidates for a prescription.

Addicts or people misusing OxyContin – a brand name for the narcotic oxycodone – may grind the tablets into powder. This destroys the time-release function of the drug and gives people the ability get a quick fix by snorting the ground tablets, or mixing the powder with water for drinking or injecting into the bloodstream, Barnhart said.

There could be multiple criminals at work in the recent spate of robberies; suspect descriptions vary by location. There have been several robberies in Spokane, and three in the past eight days in Kootenai County. The Augerlavoies are suspected in the three North Idaho cases.

Many pharmacies require 24-hour notice to fill OxyContin prescriptions and take other precautions to discourage robbers.

Coeur d’Alene police Sgt. Christie Wood said the Augerlavoies were not speaking with police investigators Wednesday evening.

The couple have had other scrapes with Kootenai County law enforcement this year. Patrick Augerlavoie was arrested on suspicion of assault, and Carrie Augerlavoie was arrested on suspicion of carrying a weapon on a school campus, Wood said.

Contact John Stucke at (509) 459-5419 or johnst@spokesman.com.

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