BY ART BUKOWSKI
TRAVERSE CITY — A man who barged into a local gas station and robbed a clerk appeared to be familiar with the store’s layout and operations, police said.
Meanwhile, another man could face a criminal charge after he recklessly drove past officers as they investigated the robbery.
A man described as being in his mid-30s entered the Admiral station at Front and Barlow streets Wednesday at about 10:30 p.m.
He shoved a male employee into a closet and held the door shut while he threw a backpack at a female employee and ordered her to fill it with money. She complied and he ran off.
The man didn’t display or mention a weapon, and neither employee was injured.
It was a troubling incident in a busy section of town, police said.
“Typically we don’t see robbers who are brazen enough at 10:30 at night to approach a store when two employees are visible through the window, a male and a female,” Traverse City Police Capt. Brian Heffner said.
The suspect may have some connection to the store, Heffner said, though it’s too early to say for sure.
“We’re currently looking into individuals who knew the layout of the store. Former employees, friends of the workers, people who may know the routine and when money may have been more available,” he said. “It appears from the way the suspect attempts to conceal his face that he was aware of camera placements and may have known the layout of the store prior to going in there.”
As officers walked with a tracking dog in the alley behind the gas station, a vehicle approached. The vehicle was moving erratically, Heffner said, and the driver drove past and nearly struck an officer who tried to flag it down.
A Grand Traverse sheriff’s deputy followed and arrested the driver, who authorities said sped up and ran through multiple stop signs in the process.
“It’s difficult to focus on a robbery when you have someone driving erratically ... narrowly missing a K-9 officer who’s conducing a track of the suspect,” Heffner said.
The man, 20, was arrested and could face charges of reckless driving or possibly driving under the influence or drugs. Police said he admitted to smoking marijuana before driving.
Anyone with information about the robbery is asked to call police. Heffner hopes that the suspect’s distinctive clothing means something to someone.
“Someone in the public knows this individual. Someone will recognize the clothes he is wearing,” he said. “We need that someone to come forward to stop this individual from committing another act.”
The same gas station was robbed in June 2010 by Northport resident Christopher Hammersley, then 17. Hammersley walked into the station with a knife and demanded cash. Hammersley is now in prison serving a minimum three-year sentence for armed robbery.
A video of the robbery can be seen below. Anyone with information is asked to the Traverse City Police Department detective bureau at (231) 995-5152 or Silent Observer at (231) 947-TIPS.