MISHAWAKA – Investigators hope surveillance video from two separate armed robberies will help catch a man they believe was involved in both.
Even though the suspect's face is difficult to see, officers believe his voice on the video might be recognized by the public and help them catch him, said Assistant Mishawaka Police Chief Daniel Gebo.
The first armed robbery happened at the Mr. Fresh Convenience Store in the 700 block of West Jefferson Blvd. in Mishawaka around 6:45 Monday night.
The video shows a man dressed in all black entering the store, pointing a gun at the cashier and demanded money.
It wasn’t the first time Nancy Wray, who lives across the street, has been scared.
“You don’t know if they’re going to come over here and try to hide,” she said. “There’s been quite a few since I’ve been here.”
Monday’s incident marked the fifth robbery at Mr. Fresh’s since January 2009, police said.
“Funny thing was, my husband seen the guy walking toward the store because he was in the front porch on the computer,” Wray added. “The guy didn’t have his mask on or hood on, but my husband still couldn’t see his face because it was dark.”
Minutes later, cops swarmed the area. Employees told WSBT the suspect took off with less than $100 cash and some cigarettes.
About half-hour after that, around 7:15 p.m., police were called to the Studio Plus Extended Stay Hotel on North Main Street. Investigators say the suspect went inside the lobby, pointed a gun at the desk clerk and demanded money from her. Police wouldn’t say how much he took.
According to the police report, officers brought in a tracking dog to try and figure out where the suspect went. The K-9 led them across Main Street into the old Max & Erma’s parking lot but stopped behind the building. That led officers to speculate the suspect may have run to a car parked behind the building and escaped that way.
“It’s kind of shocking and surprising. I thought the place was very safe,” said hotel guest Gamal Saleh. “For the past three weeks, I have not had any problem with anybody in the area or in the hotel itself. It seems to be very safe. People are nice here.”
Saleh said he’s a physician in town visiting family. He hadn’t heard about the robbery until WSBT approached him in the hotel’s parking lot Tuesday afternoon. Even though he said he’s surprised it happened, he’s not worried about his safety.
“I’ll continue to stay here,” he added.
Investigators believe the robberies are connected because they happened within 30 minutes of each other and because the suspect descriptions from employees, witnesses and what officers saw on the surveillance video all matched.
He’s described as a short, stocky black male in his early to mid twenties. He was wearing all black clothing, black and white shoes and had a black scarf or bandana tied around his mouth.
A third, unrelated street robbery also happened Monday night on St. Vincent Street in South Bend, said South Bend Police Sgt. Ian McQueen. A man in his 40s told officers that three teenagers in hoodies approached him, pointed a gun at him and demanded money. Officers do not believe that incident is connected to the Mishawaka robberies. However, McQueen said the number of armed robberies almost always increases during the holiday season because more people, including local businesses, have more cash.
If you have information about either case, call Mishawaka police at 258-1678 or South Bend police at 235-9201.