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Witness chases suspects in four robberies

UPDATED: Fri., April 18, 2014, 9:56 p.m.

Leticia Bleek decided to pull into the Shadle McDonald’s drive-thru for dinner Thursday night around 6 p.m., never imagining that she would instead be participating in an adrenaline fueled chase through north Spokane neighborhoods.

As Bleek pulled in, she spotted a man run past her toward the window, then run back. “He was running by my car and he had the till in his hand,” she said.

She and her boyfriend, Tyler Christenson, watched the man run to a Ford F-150 truck. He lifted a hard plastic cover over the bed of the truck and jumped inside.

“I jammed it into reverse,” Bleek said. “I knew I was the only one that had seen it and if I didn’t follow him no one would know.”

Christenson called 911 and relayed the truck’s license plate number and their location as Bleek gave chase. She managed to keep up for a couple miles, then lost them. “They were going so fast we couldn’t keep up,” she said.

Bleek said she was aware of the previous drive-thru robberies and didn’t give it much thought before she tried to chase them down. “It was probably a really dumb decision,” she said. “It just happened to work out okay.”

On Friday Spokane Police Capt. Brad Arleth praised the efforts of Bleek and Christenson. “I just have to extend a word of gratitude,” he said. “We’re very grateful for their assistance.”

Thomas T. Craigen, 32, and Jessica M. Schwartzenberger, 23, appeared in court on charges of first-degree robbery Friday. The third man, 23-year-old Sean L. Gilbert, was arrested in Spokane Valley Friday evening. He will have his first court appearance Monday.

According to court documents, Schwartzenberger was driving the truck during the robbery and Craigen was a passenger while Gilbert allegedly committed the robbery. Police believe Gilbert got out of the truck at JB’s Quick Stop at Rowan and Alberta, where the empty cash drawer was found.

An 8-month-old baby was in the truck when police stopped it in the 1800 block of West North Ridge Court after a brief chase. The baby is being cared for by relatives, Arleth said.

Craigen reportedly admitted to police that he and Gilbert were responsible for four drive-thru robberies: the Dairy Queen at 310 W. Francis on Monday, the McDonald’s at 6321 N. Monroe on Tuesday, the Wendy’s at 9114 N. Newport Highway on Wednesday and the Shadle McDonald’s on Thursday.

Police are also investigating whether the trio is tied to a robbery at the Cenex at 2103 W. Northwest Blvd. on Sunday, Arleth said.

A gun was shown in most of the robberies and a gun is visible inside the F-150, Arleth said. Investigators are obtaining a search warrant so they can retrieve the gun and other evidence.

Craigen told police that the gun is an Airsoft pistol, according to court documents.


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