The burst of armed robberies in north Spokane this week is once again making police edgy, especially because the gunmen are pulling their weapons and aren’t afraid of drawing attention to themselves.
Police believe two of the four robberies were done by the same group of men. The first occurred Tuesday at a small neighborhood grocery store on North Crestline, when two men fired shots before going inside, as if to announce their entrance.
After forcing a clerk to the floor and getting money, the robbers fired another shot as they left.
“They were very aggressive and obviously not too worried about being seen,” Sgt. Jim Lundgren said. “Those are two things that make us nervous (about armed robberies). The other is when they go to a large place where there’s lots of traffic and pull one.”
That happened the next night when two black men went to the Pay Less Drug Store, 7714 N. Division, and held a gun to a clerk’s head. They got cash and went outside where they may have left with a third black man, Lundgren said.
In both robberies, all of the suspects were black.
Two more hold-ups Thursday night - less than an hour apart - may have been done by a lone man, described as black, in his 20s and about 6 feet tall.
Police doubt he was involved in the first two robberies because he was always calm, quiet and never pulled his gun.
Instead, the robber took his time walking around the 7-Eleven at Maxwell and Maple before approaching the clerk. Then he lifted his sweatshirt to reveal a handgun tucked in his waistband.
He was so unobtrusive, several customers in the store continued shopping, unaware a robbery was taking place.
Forty-five minutes later, a man with a similar description robbed the Sea Galley restaurant at Howard and Boone. He also quietly approached the cashier and showed a gun under his shirt.
The busy location of the Sea Galley is the only evidence that might link that robber to the two men who held up the Pay Less Drug Store, Lundgren said.
“We think the places these guys are choosing is interesting,” he said. “And of course, there’s a possibility none of them are linked at all.”
For three months last fall, police chased an armed robber consistently described as having bad teeth who held up dozens of stores with what turned out to be a fake, gold gun. Aaron Coats, dubbed the bad-tooth bandit, finally was arrested and admitted committing more than 30 robberies.
Police hope the latest hold-ups aren’t the beginning of another string. Although they have no suspects, detectives are meeting with patrol officers before each shift to talk about the robberies and keep them on alert. The 7-Eleven store captured a video image of the Thursday night robber.
Lundgren said a drug habit is behind most armed robberies. When strings of related holdups occur, police can predict fairly accurately when the next robbery will occur, he said.
“We look at how much (money) they got, the profile of the robbery and some other things,” said Lundgren, who works in the Major Crimes Unit. “If we’re right and it’s drugs they need, we can guess pretty well when they run out and are going to need more.”
xxxx Robberies this week Small grocery store on North Crestline Pay Less Drug Store, 7714 N. Division 7-Eleven at Maxwell and Maple Sea Galley at Howard and Boone
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