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Suspected robber tracked to drug rehab facility

Thu., April 25, 2013, midnight

Spokane County Sheriff’s Office deputies tracked a suspected robber on a bicycle back to a Spokane Valley drug rehab facility on Saturday.

An employee at Divine’s Gas Station near Pines Road and Mission Avenue told deputies a man stabbed him in the neck with a pen and took money from the cash register around 7:40 p.m. Saturday, according to a Sheriff’s Office news release. The robber rode away from the scene on a bike, and deputies found a matching bike abandoned behind American Behavioral Health Services at 12715 E. Mission Ave.

Cpl. Jeff Shover then asked facility staff if the suspect was a resident. They refused to answer, told Shover to back away and shut the door in his face, Sheriff’s Office spokesman Craig Chamberlin said.

Spokane County prosecutors are examining whether the staff unlawfully obstructed an investigation, Chamberlin said.

Hours after the robbery, around 12:55 a.m. Sunday, ABHS staff called Crime Check when they discovered 31-year-old Joshua M. Wippert was missing. Wippert’s description matched the robber, the victim told deputies.

Wippert lives in Bellingham, according to his social media accounts, and most of his criminal convictions are out of Western Washington. In 2010 he armed himself with a large rock and robbed a Bellingham shoe store, according to Bellingham police.

Spokane County detectives are seeking Wippert on first-degree robbery charges.

Deputies later returned to the rehab facility, but staff said they did not request the Sheriff’s Office assistance and were only following their facility’s policy to notify Crime Check about Wippert’s disappearance, Chamberlin said.

“When you have somebody that is willing to rob a business in daylight – what potential hazard does this person possess to the community?” Chamberlin said. “We don’t want to go through their medical records – we’re just wondering if they’re there.”

ABHS is the facility to which Charles Wallace was sent last year before he escaped and shot two deputies and then himself.

The facility is locked to prevent strangers from accessing the building, but employees can’t prevent patients from leaving.

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