Harrison, Ford City robberies may share suspect
By Chuck Biedka
Published: Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014, 12:16 a.m.
Police say the man who robbed a Harrison gas station on Thursday night may be the same man who held up two stores in Ford City in one week.
Police in Harrison and Ford City say the robberies are remarkably similar — including the suspect's description and the robber's preference for Newport cigarettes.
The first two robberies — at the Fueland gas station along Fifth Avenue in Ford City on Jan. 30 and the Ford City Tobacco store along Fifth Avenue on Feb. 3 — caused police to lock down the Ford City High School gym because a girls basketball game was being played on both occasions.
A lockdown wasn't needed on Thursday, but Harrison police said a girls basketball game was under way at Highlands High School, not far from the BP station, across from the Heights Plaza, when it was robbed.
Police say the proximity to schools hosting girls basketball games is just one of many similarities in the crimes. Among the others:
• Each robbery was committed about 8:30 p.m.
• Cash and Newport cigarettes were stolen in each case.
• The robber's physical and clothing descriptions match in each case.
In each case, the blue-eyed robber appeared to be avoiding surveillance cameras as much as possible each time he walked into the stores and approached the clerks, Harrison police Chief Mike Klein said.
Once at the counter, the man put a gray plastic bag down and said essentially the same thing: “Give me the money and no one will get hurt,” Ford City Sgt. John Atherton said.
Although he didn't flash a weapon in any of the cases, police say the man suggested he had one, upsetting clerks in each case.
Just as the suspect did in the Ford City robberies, the Harrison robber wore a black jacket, a light-gray hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans and white tennis shoes.
A dark scarf concealed his face, and he wore a black, beanie-style hat and gloves.
Although the robber got only a pack of Newports during each of the first two robberies, he walked away with a carton of the brand on Thursday night.
Klein said police are checking to see if he left in a car — perhaps an older, silver Honda Accord — that was parked nearby.
Ford City and Harrison police are comparing notes and crime theories. There was surveillance tape recorded in at least two of the robberies. Atherton said the robber may have had an accomplice who drove.
“I encourage all Alle-Kiski Valley officers to keep their eyes open, Atherton said. “This suspect isn't done yet.”
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