By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette — Falls police detectives say they don't know yet if the robbery of a LaSalle convenience store late Monday night is tied to an earlier rash of robberies in January.
Detectives have been hunting for at least two suspects in a trio of hold-ups that occurred just as the new year kicked off. Now they are looking for two suspects in the most recent robbery.
The hold-up took place around 10:44 p.m. at a store in the 6800 block of Buffalo Avenue. A witness saw they robbery taking place and called police, but the bandits had fled by the time officers arrived on the scene.
A store clerk told investigators two suspects entered the store and one jumped over the front counter and pointed a handgun at his face. The victim said the gunman repeatedly told him to "Open the (cash register) drawer."
The second suspect then came behind the counter and grabbed an unknown quantity of lottery tickets.
After the clerk opened the cash register drawer, the gun toting suspect grabbed a handful of cash. He then jumped back over the counter and both suspects ran from the store, heading toward 68th Street.
Between New Year’s Eve and Jan. 3, investigators responded to a trio of robberies with somewhat similar circumstances, but they've been unable, so far, to determine if they are all related.
“There are similar suspect descriptions,” Detective Lt. Mike Trane said. “But in one robbery we have two suspects and then in the others it’s just one suspect. But the (single suspect) looks like one of the guys from the first robbery. It’s just hard to tell and we’re just not sure.”
Detectives have released pictures of those suspects, taken from security cameras inside the stores. Trane said they have not received much help from the public since releasing the photos.
The detective lieutenant said investigators are still seeking help from the public.
The first robbery took place at 3:40 a.m. New Year’s Eve at a store in the 2600 block of Niagara Street. Two suspects entered the store and walked straight to the front counter.
Both suspects were wearing black winter jackets, with hoods tied so tight that only their eyes were visible. Both men also had ski masks covering their faces.
A store clerk, who was cleaning, walked to the counter and one of the suspects then pulled out a black handgun and demanded cash.
“Open the drawer and take everything out of the register,” the suspect told the clerk.
The clerk took some cash from the register and as he handed it to the suspect, the man demanded that he open the store safe. After telling the first suspect he did not have a key for the safe, the second suspect went around the front counter and grabbed some packs of Newport cigarettes.
The suspects then grabbed two empty bank bags and a package of Swedish Fish candy before running from the store.
The second robbery occurred on New Year’s Day at a store in the 1500 block of Pine Avenue.
A clerk told officers that he was working at the front counter, at 10:20 p.m., when a suspect with a large build, wearing a black leather jacket and a scarf covering his face came into the store from the west side of the building. Again, the suspect walked right to the front counter and displayed a large steak knife.
The robber demanded cash and told the clerk to put it in a ripped plastic bag he was carrying with him. The clerk gave the robber some money from his cash register and five packs of Newport cigarettes.
He described the suspect as “tweaking out” as the robbery was taking place. The suspect was last seen running west toward 15th Street.
The last robbery was at 2:49 a.m. Jan. 2, at a store in the 400 block of Niagara Street. A suspect, wearing a black jacket and an American flag bandanna over his face, came into the store armed with a sword.
None of the store clerks have been injured in the hold-ups.
Anyone with information on any of the suspects or any of the robberies is asked to call Falls Police detectives at 286-4553.