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Brazen robberies may be linked

Warrant used in search for masked gunmen

A takeover-style robbery that targeted customers and employees at a McDonald’s restaurant in south Spokane may be connected to a similar gunpoint attack at a nearby home five days later, authorities said.

Victims in both robberies described the masked men’s weapons as black semiautomatic handguns and a sawed-off, single-barrel shotgun, according to information released Monday.

Each time, the robbers wore black clothes as well as gloves and ski masks. They also pointed guns directly at their victims and threatened to harm them, detectives said.

Detectives included those details in a warrant used to search a residence near High Bridge Park in west Spokane on Friday for possible evidence of the robberies. But the search did not yield enough to identify suspects, and the investigation is ongoing, Deputy Craig Chamberlin, spokesman for the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, said Monday.

A reward is being offered for information on the home-invasion robbery, which occurred May 30 in the 4400 block of East 46th Avenue.

Tipsters are asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online.

The McDonald’s robbery occurred May 25 about 10 p.m. at the store at 4647 S. Regal St., which is about two miles from the 46th Avenue home.

Detectives have not determined if the incidents are connected, but they haven’t ruled it out, either, Chamberlin said.

The Spokane Police Department is investigating the McDonald’s holdup. They have released few details other than surveillance images of the four robbers.

Police called the McDonald’s incident part of a disturbing trend of brazen robberies in the area. Authorities say most robberies are home-invasion style attacks that target drugs and are perpetrated by someone the victim knows.

That appears to be the case with the 46th Avenue attack. The victims said two masked gunmen targeted a stash of cash, coins and narcotics, including morphine, oxycodone and hydrocodone. Six people were in the home when the robbers struck, including a man who said one robber pointed a gun at his head, then made his father get on the ground at gunpoint as his accomplice grabbed two locked boxes from his grandmother’s bedroom.

Detective Jack Rosenthal said it’s “clear from the method used” to access the valuables that the robbers knew of the boxes and their locations before they arrived, according to the search warrant.

The victims told Rosenthal they believe a family member “either intentionally or unintentionally informed another person” of the lockboxes, Rosenthal wrote.

A woman who admitted to detectives that she was a prostitute and a heroin addict said she knew of two men who commit robberies with shotguns while wearing black clothes and ski masks, according to the search warrant.

Detectives also are looking at phone records of the victims for clues on possible suspects.