Police suspect same man in Subway, Blimpie robberies

Tim Sturrock

A man who claimed to have a gun in his jacket attempted to rob a restaurant on Washington Avenue S.E. Wednesday night, and police think the same suspect robbed a nearby restaurant in an identical fashion just a day earlier.

“We’re obviously very concerned about this,” said Lt. Steve Kincaid of the Minneapolis police.

Kincaid said the same method and description of the robber lead him to believe it was the same man at both restaurants.

Venancio Rodriguez said he was working at the Subway in the Stadium Village Mall on Wednesday night when a man entered and demanded money. The male, approximately 5 feet 6 inches tall, wearing a dark stocking cap and dark jacket, walked into the restaurant around 7:30 p.m. and handed the clerk a note that said, “Give me all your money or I’ll shoot you.”

Rodriguez said the suspect, who appeared to be in his twenties, threatened him with his hand in his jacket pocket, saying he had a gun.

He said to the suspect, “‘Hey man, the camera’s right there; you’re going to get busted.'”

Without a word the man ran out of the restaurant and passed a security guard who had no idea what happened, Rodriguez said. The guard came inside and called the police as the man ran off. The camera did not videotape the man.

The sandwich shop wasn’t the first to be visited recently by a man claiming to have a gun. Tuesday night a man matching the description of the previous robber and using the same method stole $250 from Blimpie Subs & Salads, also on Washington Avenue. Mary Peterson, whose husband owns the shop, said she was in the basement preparing to close when she heard the entrance bell.

She said when she got to the register a man was waiting there. He gave her a note and said he had a gun in his jacket. He demanded she give him all the money, and Peterson did.

After the exchange, he told her to go to the back room.

“I didn’t like that idea at all,” she said. “I said, ‘I’ve given you everything I got, what else do you want?'”

Peterson said she stood her ground and the robber ran out the door.

Peterson said, in retrospect, she figured the man either wanted to hurt her or to ensure she was far enough from the door that she couldn’t lunge at him. Police arrived moments later and searched the area but couldn’t find the man.

Lt. Kincaid said the Minneapolis Police Department’s SAFE unit informed neighboring businesses of the robbery. He said he couldn’t be specific about the investigation, but all officers are aware of the problem.

He also said the robberies are probably unrelated to two similar crimes within the past few weeks.

In those robberies – one at the Borealis Caffé in Dinkytown and the other at the Kinko’s Copy Center two doors from Blimpie – a tall man with a towel wrapped around his hand demanded money from clerks.

At the Borealis Caffé, the clerk refused to open the register for the robber and told him to show her his gun. When he threatened her again, she opened the register and the man made off with about $300. As he left, the clerk threw a cup of hot coffee at him but missed. Police have not made an arrest.

Kincaid said the different method and different appearance lead him to believe a different man committed the sub shop crimes.

But he said robbers pretending to have guns aren’t unusual. “Implying a gun changes the nature of the offense and consequences and penalties,” Kincaid said.

Sentencing guidelines range from four years in prison for a robbery with a weapon to one year in a workhouse or jail with 21 months of stayed-prison time for implying a gun, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office said.

Kincaid said the men in these crimes probably didn’t have a weapon. “In my experience, people that have a gun display it,” he said. “Those who refuse usually don’t have more than a finger.”

But he said safe is better than sorry.

“Even though I know it’s a fair bet, I’m not going to play those odds, and I don’t recommend anyone else play those odds.”

Tim Sturrock encourages comments at [email protected]