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Ford City basketball game ends in lockdown — again

| Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, 10:26 a.m.
Police respond to a robbery at the Ford City Tobacco store on Fifth Avenue in Ford City, Monday, Feb. 3, 2014. Police for the second time within a week locked down the high school during a basketball game after a robbery.
Louis B. Ruediger | Leader Times
Police respond to a robbery at the Ford City Tobacco store on Fifth Avenue in Ford City, Monday, Feb. 3, 2014. Police for the second time within a week locked down the high school during a basketball game after a robbery.

The second robbery in five days of stores near Ford City High School led police to lock down a basketball game in the gym there Monday night while a search for the robber, believed to be the same man in both incidents, was taking place outside.

The clerk who was working at the Ford City Tobacco store at 1400 Fifth Ave. told police that about 8:26 p.m., the man entered the store, placed a gray plastic bag on the counter and demanded money.

“He told the clerk, ‘Do what I say and you won't get hurt,' ” Ford City police Sgt. John Atherton said.

The robber, who left on foot with an undisclosed amount of cash and three packs of Newport cigarettes, did not show any sign he had a weapon and made no mention of carrying one, Atherton said.

Atherton said a person outside the store saw the man flee along Fifth Avenue and onto 14th Street toward Sixth Avenue — about three blocks from the high school.

Thursday's robbery

The store is less than two blocks from the Fueland gasoline station and convenience store that was robbed at about 8:30 p.m. Thursday.

The robber in that incident, who has not been caught, fits the description of the man in Monday's robbery.

“We believe it is the same suspect,” Atherton said.

In Thursday's robbery, the man had an object in his pocket which he claimed was a gun. He fled on foot with cash — and a pack of Newport cigarettes.

Atherton said the robberies have made him “deeply concerned” and officers are looking at a few leads.

“It's probably someone desperate for heroin,” Mayor Marc Mantini said. “Hopefully, we'll get the bum.”

Gym locked down again

Fans attending the game Monday night were kept in the gym by a police-ordered lockdown after the game because of the robbery investigation.

The same thing occurred Thursday during Ford City's game against Apollo-Ridge.

As play went on during the fourth quarter of Monday's game, an announcement was made over the school's speaker system asking for janitors to report to the second floor.

Once the final horn sounded, Ford City Athletic Director Denny Stewart spoke over the public address system to inform fans that they were to remain in the gym until further notice, an announcement met with frustration by many people in the stands, some of whom had been through Thursday's lockdown.

No further explanation was given to fans at the game, who were allowed to leave after about 10 minutes. Thursday's lockdown lasted about half an hour.

Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Staff writer Matt Grubba contributed to this report.

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