Seven people have been arrested for a series of brazen gunpoint robberies that targeted not only drug homes but a fast food restaurant with customers inside.
More arrests are expected as part of an ongoing investigation that began May 25 when four masked robbers burst into the McDonald’s at 4647 S. Regal St. and robbed four employees and six customers of cash, phones and other valuables.
“It’s not like an organized crew of the same four people doing robbery after robbery, but a loosely knit group,” said Spokane police Major Frank Scalise. “I am confident that the overwhelming majority of this group is behind bars.”
Surveillance photos of the McDonald’s robbers led to an anonymous tip that identified Michael D. Brown, 23, as a suspect. Police believe he robbed the store with Dwayne J. “DJ” Tolbert, 21; Avery Loring, 25; and Brettly Sanderson, 16.
Police still were looking for Loring as of late Friday.
Alexsis A. Schell, 18, is accused of driving them to and from the store.
Police believe the robbers went to Schell’s aunt’s home on North Howard Street to divvy up the loot,” Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Tom Treppiedi said at Schell’s first court appearance Friday. The suspects were ordered to stay in jail on $500,000 bond.
Police believe Loring, who Sanderson said provided the guns used in the McDonald’s robbery, and Tolbert also robbed the Zip Trip at 2020 W. Francis on May 31. Sanderson said the robbery netted cigarettes and $14, according to court documents.
Sanderson was arrested last week for a June 6 robbery at a home in the 2900 block of North Hogan Street. Most other suspects were arrested Thursday; Tolbert was arrested Friday. Detectives seized three cars related to the robberies and searched a home in the 2400 block of East Francis Avenue where suspect Derek L. Wilson, 25, lives.
Wilson is believed to have robbed the North Hogan Street home at gunpoint with Sanderson and Christopher M. Comer, 24. The men pistol whipped the victims, stole cash, marijuana and pipes, then stripped one of the victims’ 1997 Honda Civic of a subwoofer, tires and wheels before ditching it near West Gordon Avenue and West Glass Avenue.
Police were told Wilson had the items at his Francis Avenue residence.
“It was described as Wilson’s own little pawnshop,” police said in court documents.
The victims said they recognized Sanderson during the robbery but had only known him for a couple months and did not recognize his accomplices.
“This does seem relatively random,” Treppiedi said.
Wilson faces life in prison without the possibility of parole under Washington’s three-strikes law if convicted of first-degree robbery. He was just released from prison April 25 after completing a 17-month sentence for third-degree assault, Treppiedi said.
“He doesn’t seem to understand the ramifications of his actions and what those consequences might be,” Treppiedi said.
Most of the suspects are known to police. Comer and Wilson are on probation through the Washington Department of Corrections, as is Loring, who pleaded guilty in 2006 to second-degree assault charges related to a robbery attempt near Gonzaga University. His girlfriend at the time, Alyssa Anderson, was an 18-year-old honor student at Rogers High School who also was sentenced to prison for the crimes.
Scalise said the recent robberies may not have been “very well thought out in terms of returns, but I think it was very dangerous in the event itself.”
You’re talking about people who are armed, who are amped up,” Scalise said. “That’s a very adrenaline-filled event for everybody, the victims and the perpetrators.”
Scalise said the investigations have been a top priority for the last six weeks.
Scalise said Spokane remains a safe community, despite the robberies. Most robberies in Spokane target drug houses. The McDonald’s robbery, which occurred as six juveniles were in the store, was an exception.
“Going to a McDonald’s for a burger really isn’t a dangerous proposition, and day in and day out it isn’t,” Scalise said. “Sometimes random violence, random crime does it occur. But it’s pretty rare.”