Archive for Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Police seek suspect in Subway robbery; dispatcher says last armed robbery was 30 years ago

Robber ran to Sonic before fleeing;

February 15, 2006

A man suspected of robbing Tonganoxie's Subway restaurant Sunday night also made a stop at Sonic Drive-In.

The suspect was described as a white male in his 20s, 5-foot-8 and about 150 pounds. About 9:55 p.m., he walked into Subway, 886 Northstar Ct., and told workers he had a handgun, according to Tonganoxie police Sgt. Billy Adcox.

The man, wearing a hooded gray sweatshirt with a pocket in front, never showed the gun, but pointed at workers through the pocket, Adcox said.

After robbing Subway, the suspect headed west to nearby Sonic Drive-In, 550 Northstar Ct.

Charlie Kraut, Sonic manager, was not at the restaurant when the man stopped there, but said workers told him the suspect started to enter the restaurant's front entrance and then apparently changed his mind. Workers then locked the door as the man fled northwest, according to police.

Kraut thought the man might have left Sonic because "he just saw too many people" or because of the restaurant's surveillance cameras, Kraut said.

"We have cameras rolling all the time," Kraut said. "He may have seen the cameras and decided he didn't want any part of that."

Despite the cameras, Kraut said he planned to beef up security after Sunday's events.

It's unknown whether Subway has surveillance cameras. Subway management did not respond to an interview request. In addition, a worker who was at the restaurant when the robbery occurred said management instructed him not to comment.

The suspect took about $350 from the Subway cash register and fled. Police, with assistance from the Leavenworth County sheriff's office, Kansas Highway Patrol and the Johnson County K-9 Unit, searched the area until about 1 a.m. Monday. Authorities combed an area bordered by 24-40 on the south, Smiley on the west, Parallel on the north and 218th on the east.

Search unsuccessful

A KHP helicopter also was used in the unsuccessful search.

If the man is apprehended, Adcox said the suspect still could be arrested on armed robbery charges even though it's unknown whether he actually had the gun in the front pocket of his sweatshirt.

"He made the comment he had the gun, that's enough," Adcox said.

Although the search was unsuccessful Sunday, police hope surveillance footage from a Leavenworth business could provide additional leads in the case.

Adcox said he hoped to review the surveillance footage Tuesday in Leavenworth. Although there was no robbery at that business, employees there contacted Tonganoxie police, saying they might have had a customer recently who could be connected to the Subway robbery.

Armed robbery is a rare occurrence in Tonganoxie.

Police dispatch Mike Vestal said, to his knowledge, the city's last armed robbery was in the 1970s. Carrying a gun, someone robbed a gasoline station where Triple Creek Realty now stands on U.S. Highway 24-40, west of Tonganoxie Junior High. Vestal said the man involved in that robbery was apprehended at his apartment at First and Delaware streets, where authorities recovered the moneybag that was stolen from the station. The robbery was linked to a run of Lawrence robberies, Vestal said.

'Mash and grabs'

In the last few years, robberies were reported in Tonganoxie, but were not armed robberies. In the last five to 10 years, Vestal said G&P Country Mart, 1204 U.S. Highway 24-40, was victim to "mash and grabs." Thieves would throw a hard object through a window, break in and steal items, Vestal said.

And in January 2005, at Gambino's Pizza, 420 Stone Creek Dr., just north of 24-40, a delivery person reported two men assaulted him and then stole his delivery money.

In that incident, Adcox said two men told police they were involved in an altercation with the delivery person, but did not take any money. The Leavenworth County attorney's office didn't press charges because of a lack of evidence, Adcox said.

For Vestal, it didn't seem possible that Tonganoxie, a town of 3,500, had its first armed robbery in roughly 30 years on Sunday.

"You don't expect it," Vestal said. "When I heard that tone going out, I couldn't believe that.

"I knew it was a matter of time. You don't expect it in your little town."

Kraut agreed with Vestal.

"I just hope this isn't a sign of the times to come," Kraut said. "I've been in small towns when they started growing into bigger towns.

"Unfortunately things like this come with it. I'm just hopeful Tonganoxie can keep its small-town atmosphere through their growing pains."

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