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7-Eleven robbery trio pleads not guilty

Three men accused of robbing a 7-Eleven store at gunpoint have pleaded not guilty.

Joseph Taitano, 20; Aleksandr Ampleyev, 20; and Jorell Jones, 21; got about $300 in cash and coins and a felony charge of first-degree robbery for the incident at 1317 S. Grand Blvd. about 2 a.m. July 15.

A woman who said she was sleeping in their getaway van said the men threw the cash drawer out the window and counted the money while talking about “how awesome” the robbery was, according to court documents.

A Spokane police officer spotted the van at a Cenex Zip Trip gas station at 57th Avenue and Regal Street about 20 minutes after the robbery.

Taitano and Ampleyev are in jail; Jones is out on $25,000 bond.

McD’s robbery suspect arrested in Calif.

A suspect in a series of armed robberies in Spokane was arrested in California Wednesday - his 26th birthday.

Avery Lee Loring was booked into the Fresno County Jail at 6:23 p.m. on a U.S. Marshals' hold.

He's is believed to be one of four men who robbed the McDonald's at 4647 S. Regal St., on May 25 while six juvenile customers were inside.

Suspects Michael D. Brown, 23; Dwayne J. “DJ” Tolbert, 21; and Brettly Sanderson, 16, have been arrested. They are among several suspects jailed for a series of loosely connected hold ups.

Loring and Tolbert also are accused of robbing the Zip Trip at 2020 W. Francis Ave., at gunpoint on May 31. The robbery netted $14, cigarettes and cigars.

Loring was sentenced to four years in prison in 2006 for a robbery attempt near Gonzaga University. Crime Stoppers had been offering a reward for information that led to Loring's arrest.

A reward still is being offered for tips that help arrest another robbery suspect, Oladejo B. Olajoyegbe, 24.

Reward targets suspect in McD’s robbery

A reward is being offered for tips that help arrest a a suspect in a series of armed robberies in the Spokane area.

Avery Lee Loring, 25, is believed to be one of four men who robbed the McDonald's at 4647 S. Regal St., at gunpoint on May 25 while six juvenile customers were inside.

Suspects Michael D. Brown, 23; Dwayne J. “DJ” Tolbert, 21; and Brettly Sanderson, 16, have been arrested. They are among seven suspects jailed for a series of loosely connected hold ups.

Loring and Tolbert also are believed to have robbed the Zip Trip at 2020 W. Francis Ave., at gunpoint on May 31. The robbery netted $14, cigarettes and cigars.

Loring was sentenced to four years in prison in 2006 for a robbery attempt near Gonzaga University involving his now former girlfriend, Alyssa Anderson, then a high school honor student. Loring assaulted the victims with a tire iron after hiding in a bush while Anderson put on a ski mask and pointed a shotgun at them and demanded money, according to previously published reports He earned his GED while in jail.

Now Loring is wanted on new robbery charges and, like the other suspects, could be facing further charges as the investigation into the robbery spree continues. Police have been searching for him but were told he may have fled to California.

Anyone with information on Loring's current location is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online. Tipsters do not have to leave their name to collect a reward but should give a code name or number.

Suspects arrested in brazen robberies

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.”

Read the rest of my story here.

 Suspects Derek L. Wilson, Christopher M. Comer and Dwayne J. “DJ” Tolbert are pictured above, clockwise starting with Wilson in the left corner.

Man arrested for November robbery

A suspect has been arrested for a knife-point robbery at a northwest Spokane convenience store last November.

Christopher Jeremy Jay Eby, 35, is jailed on a first-degree robbery charge for a Nov. 13 hold-up at Zip Trip, 2020 W. Francis Ave, that netted $58.

Police identified him as a suspect through witness reports of a 1994 Pontiac Grand Am in the area. Police say Eby and his wife drove the car to the area earlier that day from a home in Nine Mile Falls.

The couple were living at a home in the 6200 block of North Maple Street.

Spokane police Detective Jeff Barrington said in court documents completed June 14 that Eby matches surveillance video of the robber. Deputy Prosectuor Mark Cipolla charged Eby with first-degree robbery on June 19, and he was arrested Thursday night.

Eby's last felony conviction in Spokane County was for possession of heroin in 2009. He also has convictions from the early 1990s for third-degree assault, first-degree malicious mischief, second-degree burglary and taking a motor vehicle without permission.

The same Zip Trip was robbed at gunpoint May 31. A man who robbed the store at gunpoint in January was sentenced in April to 6 1/2 years in prison.

Car could hold clues in home invasion

Police are hoping fingerprints or DNA on a car stolen in a home-invasion robbery will help them identify suspects.

Officers found the 1997 Honda Civic stripped of its tires and wheels near West Gordon Avenue and West Glass Avenue in Spokane after it was stolen during a robbery at 2918 N. Hogan St., on June. 6.

The victim said a man he knew only as “Nike” arrived at his home with two men, including one who was holding a sawed-off shotgun. The gunman yelled “Where's the money? Where's the drugs?” and trashed the apartment as Nike and the other man also brandished guns, according to a search warrant filed this week. Police used the warrant to swab the Honda for possible fingerprints or DNA.

Another occupant of the apartment was pistol whipped. His roommate said he was robbed of $50, two laptops, a PlayStation 3 and stereo speakers.

It's unclear if the robbery is connected to other recent robberies, but the method of operation and suspects' descriptions is somewhat similar to that of a take-over style robbery that occurred at McDonald's, 4647 S. Regal St., May 25.

In that case, four men with ski masks targeted customers and employes with black semiautomatic handguns and a sawed-off, single-barrel shotgun. Detectives suspect that robbery may be connected to a take-over home-invasion robbery that occurred May 30 in the 4400 block of East 46th Avenue.

Another robbery involving four men in ski masks occurred early Friday, June 8, at the Zip Trip at 1523 W. 10th Ave., on the South Hill. Employees said the store was robbed at gunpoint by two white men and two Hispanic men wearing dark clothes and ski masks. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

Man gets 6+ years for gunpoint robbery

A Spokane man who robbed a convenience store at gunpoint after avoiding prison time for a theft and burglary case is now headed to the big house.

Anthony D. Fuerte, 19, was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison and ordered to pay $99 in restitution - the proceeds of a robbery at the Zip Trip at 2020 W. Francis Ave., in January.

Police found Fuerte hiding in a carport just west of the store. They say he had an Airsoft gun with him, along with money stolen in the robbery.

Fuerte had been given drug treatment instead of prison for a felony theft and burglary case involving nearly $200,000 in stolen goods.

Fuerte also was arrested in December 2010 on suspicion of theft and harassment after a deputy followed his shoe prints through snowy woods.

Fuerte pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery Friday and was sentenced to 80 months in prison by Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen.

Boy arrested for DUI after police chase

A 17-year-old boy in a stolen van was arrested for drunken driving after running into a fast food restaurant, then disabling his front tires by running over a curb.

The boy also faces charges of attempting to elude police, possession of a stolen vehicle, hit and run, possession of marijuana and driving while license suspended after deputies were dispatched to a van driving recklessly Saturday about 7:30 a.m. in the area of East Bigelow Gulch Road and North Argonne Road, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Witnesses called 911 to report the van, and sheriff's Deputy Matt Spink caught up with near Highway 2 and Day-Mt. Spokane Road.

Spink followed the van and was told by dispatchers that it had just run into the Zip Trip nearby, according to the sheriff's office. He tried to stop the van, but it sped away before the boy drove it over a curb near Lane Park and Chesapeake Road, which disabled the front tires.

Spink arrested the boy. The owner of the van said he'd parked it in front of his home about 11 p.m. the night before and did not know the boy or that his van had been stolen.
  

DC: Justice For Otto Zehm At Hand

Four or five other customers were ahead of me when I sauntered into the convenience store on Sunday’s sunny afternoon. No worries. Despite the Zip Trip name on the signage, I hadn’t come here on a speed run. After scanning the aisles a moment, I grabbed what I had come for. Then I took my place at the end of the checkout line with goods in tow: One 2-liter plastic bottle of Diet Pepsi. Check. One Snickers candy bar. Check. Hardly the breakfast of champions. But it seemed like the right way to mark the sixth anniversary of Otto Zehm’s final and ultimately fatal visit to this small Spokane trading post at 1712 N. Division. March 18, 2006. Never forget/Doug Clark, SR. More here. (SR photo: Snickers candy bars, flowers and 2-liter bottles of Pepsi Cola were left curbside in November in front of the Zip Trip on Division Street at Augusta Avenue)

Question: How closely have you followed the Otto Zehm story?

Robbery suspect got rehab instead of jail

A Spokane man accused of robbing a convenience store at gunpoint last weekend was given drug treatment instead of prison for a felony theft case last year.

Anthony D. Fuerte, 19, can't leave jail if he does post the $5,000 bond imposed Monday for the now first-degree robbery charge - he's serving a 30-day jail sentence for violating a drug offender sentence imposed in September for a felony theft and burglary case involving nearly $200,000 in stolen goods.

Fuerte was already considered to be in violation of his sentence requirements in that case when a clerk at Zip Trip, 2020 W. Francis, identified him as the gunman who robbed him about 9:43 p.m. on Friday.

Police found Fuerte hiding in a carport just west of the store. They say he had an Airsoft gun with him, along with money stolen in the robbery. One officer said Zip Trip surveillance video “without a doubt” shows Fuerte rob the store at gunpoint.

Fuerte was arrested in December 2010 on suspicion of theft and harassment after a deputy followed his shoe prints through snowy woods.

Zip Trip manager: Zehm was a regular

This screenshot of Zip Trip surveillance video shows Otto Zehm inside the store on March 18, 2006. One of the young girls pictured, Britni Brashers, testified at Karl Thompson's trial last week.

A Spokane convenience store who knew Otto Zehm as a regular customer since 2002 told jurors today that Zehm frequently bought 2-liter bottles of Pepsi at the Zip Trip at 10th and Maple.

Zeth Mayfield has worked at all Zip Trips in Spokane, he told jurors, though he never saw Zehm in the Zip Trip on North Division where Officer Karl Thompson confronted him.

Outside the presence of the jury, defense lawyer Carl Oreskovich tried to exclude Mayfield's testimony, telling Judge Van Sickle it was irrelevant to the point of the case, which is whether Thompson used too much force.

All Mayfield's testimony does, Oreskovich said, is establish that Zehm was a regular customer  “which is not at all what was known to Officer Thompson.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Aine Ahmed said Mayfield was needed to help show that Zehm wasn't using the soda bottle as a weapon - that he regularly bought soda at Zip Trip.

“No one can speak for Mr. Zehm right now,” Ahmed said. “I can't prove anything about his innocence..” so he must look at intent.

Ahmed said were Zehm still alive, he surely would be allowed to testily that he didn't use the bottle as a weapon and that he always bought that kind of soda. He said Mayfield could show that Zehm “never acted aggressively” when he was in the store.

Ahmed said Zehm introduced himself when Mayfield began working at the store in 2002 and said “welcome to Zip Trip.” He said Zehm once found two $5 bills in the store, turned them in, then refused to keep one when the customer came back before them.

Mayfield didn't get into that with jurors, but he did say that he saw Zehm in Zip Trips more than 50 times.

Mayfield said Zehm bought  “sodas, snacks, anything that he needed for groceries. Milk, egg,” and went in just about every other day.

On cross examination, Oreskovich noted that Mayfield had not contacted Zehm in the months prior to the confrontation, and had not seen him the day of March 18, 2006.

3-time armed robber gets 51 months

A man who robbed three convenience stores at gunpoint in March has been ordered to spend about four years in prison.  

Joseph D. Maine, 23, (pictured last year) was sentenced last week to 51 months in prison after pleading guilty to three counts of first-degree robbery.

Maine, who was featured in a news article last year for helping car crash victims, told police he was an unemployed heroin addict with a family to support when he robbed Mike's Grocery, 2025 N. Hamilton St., and at Zip Trip, 2005 N. Hamilton, and the Broadway Mini Market, 10304 E. Broadway Ave., over the course of two days.

Police seized a black Daisy BB gun from a home where Maine was staying in the 3800 block of South Bowdish Road.

Police also found drugs in Maine's jeans and noted hat Maine asked them to “remove used needles from under his daughter's mattress,” according to court documents.

In addition to the prison sentence, Maine is required to pay $370 restitution.

Robbery suspect also a heroic rescuer

A man suspected of robbing three Spokane convenience stores last weekend rushed to a car crash to help a father and three children one year ago today.

Joseph D. Maine, 23, was working in his backyard with his brother when he heard the crash at 32nd and Ray on April 1, 2010. He and his brother rushed to the scene.

 “Hearing those little kids screaming. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. I almost wanted to cry,” said Maine, who said he had two children of his own.

One year later, Maine is in the Spokane County Jail, after being arrested Wednesday for robberies Saturday at Mike's Grocery, 2025 N. Hamilton St., and at Zip Trip, 2005 N. Hamilton, and the Broadway Mini Market, 10304 E. Broadway Ave., on Sunday.

The victims on Sunday reported seeing the butt of a handgun in the robber's waistband.

Maine told friends he robbed the stores because he need money to pay bills, police say. The robber at Mike's Grocery reportedly told the clerk, “Sorry, bro. Gotta pay the bills,” according to a probable cause affidavit.

A tip led police to Maine, who told officers he was an unemployed heroin addict with a family to support. He said he used a BB gun during the robberies and “even apologized to the clerks because he had bills to pay,” according to the affidavit.

Police seized a black Daisy BB gun from a home where Maine was staying in the 3800 block of South Bowdish Road. Police also found drugs in Maine's jeans and noted in the affidavit that Maine asked them to “remove used needles from under his daughter's mattress.”

Maine remains in the Spokane County Jail on $100,000 bond.

Maine served time in jail last year for several counts of third-degree driving while license suspended.

He's pictured above last April.

Robber sentenced for bear mace attack

A man who robbed a Spokane convenience store with bear mace was sentenced to a year in jail after pleading guilty to second-degree robbery.

Daniel A. Sweetland, 21, was accused with Alexander J. Smith of robbing the Zip Trip at 1523 W. 10th Ave., of an 18-pack of Bud Lite on Nov. 28 after spraying the clerk with mace.

The clerk suffered eye pain and blurry visions for about two days after the attack attack, police said. Spokane police detectives identified the men through tips obtained after a surveillance video of the attack was released to media.

They were arrested Feb. 16. Smith was released from jail on $30,000 bond March 3 and is scheduled for trial on April 18.

Sweetland pleaded guilty on Friday and was sentenced to 12 months in jail and ordered to pay $1,623 restitution. He'll be credited for 30 days already served and for four months counted under the jail's good time policy.

Sweetland is also banned from all Zip Trips in Washington for 10 years. Sweetland has convictions as a juvenile for burglary, malicious mischief, criminal trespass and reckless burning. The last conviction was related to a fire that gutted the historic Clayton Grange Hall.

Suspects ID’d in Zip Trip mace attack

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UPDATE: Sweetland and Smith were arrested on Feb. 16.

Spokane police have identified two suspects in a convenience store robbery in which a clerk was attacked with bear mace.

 Crime Stoppers issued a reward offer today for tips that helps arrest Daniel A. Sweetland (left) and Alexander J. Smith (right), both 21, who are wanted for first-degree robbery.

Detectives identified the men through tips obtained after a surveillance video of the Nov. 28 attack at Zip Trip, 1523 W. 10th Ave., was released to media (see above).

They believe Smith entered the store first and asked for cigarettes to distract the clerk while Sweetland entered with the mace and stole an 18-pack of Bud Lite, according to court documents filed Friday. The clerk suffered eye pain and blurry visions for about two days after Sweetland's attack, police said.

Sweetland, 5-foot-5 and 145 pounds, has a 13-year arrest history but no convictions, according to Crime Stoppers. Smith, 5-foot-4 and 160 pounds, has an 11-year arrest history but also no convictions.

Sweetland last gave an address in the 700 block of East Heroy Avenue in Spokane Valley. Smith last gave an address in the 900 block of East Central Avenue in Spokane.

Anyone with information on their location is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online.

2 robberies in Valley likely not linked

Armed robberies were reported at Spokane Valley two convenience stores Saturday and today, but police don’t yet suspect a serial robber.

“Armed robberies always go up over the holidays. It’s an annual thing,” said Sgt. Dave Reagan, spokesman for the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office. “I have not heard from any of our detectives that they suspect these are linked.”

The first robbery occurred Saturday just after 3 a.m. at the Holiday Gas Station, 2303 N. Argonne Road.

A man in a black ski mask, gloves, dark pants and a white t-shirt and holding a black semi-automatic handgun ran northbound from the store after stealing an undisclosed amount of money. He was described as a thin white man in his late teens or early 20s.

Then this morning, a man in a black ski mask and carrying a black pistol stole a small amount of cash from Zip Trip, 15504 E. Fourth Ave., after tossing the clerk a bag. The man ran southbound from the store about 2:30 a.m. to a nearby apartment complex, where a sheriff’s K-9 lost his scent.

The robber was described as a white man in his early 20s, 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds. He wore black gloves, black pants, black shoes and a black puffy coat over a white shirt.

Anyone with information on either robbery is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

Video shows Zip Trip bear spray assault

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Spokane police are looking for a man who assaulted a Zip Trip store clerk with bear spray early Sunday morning.  

Surveillance video shows a masked man in a hooded, brown and tannish plaid jacket spray the cashier in the face at 2:47 a.m. Police say he entered and attacked after another man entered the store at 1523 W. 10th Ave. and asked for cigarettes.That man is pictured at the end of the video wearing a striped hooded sweatshirt and red hat.

The men both ran from the store after the clerk was assaulted. The man in the striped hooded sweatshirt is described as 5-foot-6 with a medium building, brown hair mustache and beard. The assailant is about 5-foot-10 with a white mask and plaid jacket, police said.

Anyone with information on the men is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online.

Pics show beer robber in clerk’s stabbing

Spokane police are looking for help identifying a beer-toting robber who stabbed a convenience store clerk last week.

The man grabbed beer and ran from the Zip Trip at 1503 E. Illinois Ave. about 9 p.m. Wednesday, according to police, then stabbed a store clerk in the back after the clerk chased him down.

A police dog was unable to track the robber, who police believe was on foot and likely lives in the area.

Grainy surveillance photos released Friday show a man wearing a black “DC” t-shirt, black pants and a black and royal blue hat.

  He is described as Native American, about 5-foot-5 and in his late teens or early 20s with long dark hair and a thin build.

Anyone with information on a suspect is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.