By Darrell Todd Maurina
Armed robbers hit the North Plains Cinema for the third time this summer on Wednesday night and police said suspects may be connected to eight attempted armed robberies in Clovis since June 14.
No one was injured and no cash was taken in Wednesday’s incident. But the event doused hopes that a July 14 arrest of three suspected robbers has ended the robbery string.
“It sounds like it may be the same people — about the same build, clothes, and colors,” Clovis police Sgt. Roger Grah said.
Grah also emphasized that police are not sure if Wednesday’s attempted robbery is related to the previous seven.
Three suspects arrested earlier this month — including an 11-year-old boy whose mother turned him in to authorities — remain in police custody, Clovis police Capt. Leon Morris said on Thursday. Police have said they are charged in connection with three of the recent robberies.
Police Chief Bill Carey said after the July 14 arrests that he was optimistic the string of robberies was over. But he also said the investigation was continuing.
On Thursday, Grah said the three arrested on July 14 were never the only suspects.
“We have never said the people we have in custody were linked to all of (the robberies),” Grah said.
Police said the three in custody confessed to three armed robberies of Allsup’s convenience stores, not the robberies of the North Plains Cinema or of customers outside two Clovis restaurants.
While previous robberies at the theater netted hundreds of dollars, that didn’t happen Wednesday. A theater employee, who asked not to be identified, said the business’ doors were locked when two men wearing bandanas over their faces tried to get in about 10:30 p.m. They pointed a gun at the employee, but then ran away when he refused to open the doors, the employee said.
The employee said the suspects fled in a white, late-model Chevy Silverado pickup and he gave chase before losing them in the area of Sacred Heart Catholic Community Church, 921 Merriwether.
“We were going about 90 mph down Commerce Street,” the employee said. “I tried to flag the cops down, and I was calling on my cell phone and finally got the dispatcher and said ‘I caught your criminals.’ They said ‘Sir, slow down,’ but I said, ‘I want to catch these guys.’”
The employee said he broke off the chase when a third car got in the way and he began to fear for the safety of others.
“I basically wish I got my hands on them,” the employee said. “This is one place they don’t want to rob.”
Because no cash was stolen, police listed Wednesday’s incident as a case of aggravated assault rather than armed robbery. Police Capt. Morris said that while no one was injured, threatening people with weapons meets the legal definition of aggravated assault.
Grah said the best thing for citizens to do is be on the lookout for suspicious activities and try to get detailed descriptions.
“If they happen to see things happen again, look for license plates, anything like that,” Grah said.