Update: Rite-Aid robbery suspect at large, but SWAT situation over

(Toplines: Rite-Aid pharmacy robbed 8:35ish pm, robber thought to have fled into nearby apt., SWAT team called out, determined after 11 pm he wasn’t there and is still at large)

(photo added 9:48 pm)
ORIGINAL 9:10 PM REPORT: Thanks to Manuel for the first tip – and the phone’s just started ringing too – we’re en route to check out the “heavy police presence” around Rite-Aid south of The Junction (map). One report says it’s a search for a robbery suspect, and police may soon be stopping traffic in the area. A “command post” is being set up in the area to manage the operation – scanner says police are going to route traffic “around the Rite-Aid.” 9:17 PM UPDATE: 42nd SW also is blocked at Dawson, a block east of Rite-Aid. 9:21 PM UPDATE: Talked to police at the scene – they confirm a robbery attempt at the Rite-Aid pharmacy, and the robber may be holed up in a nearby apartment building – that’s why police are bringing in reinforcements. Again, avoid the area. Just received a note from Nick, who was there just after it happened:

I just got back from filling a prescription at Rite Aid on Calif. The place had been held up just seconds before I got there. Probably around 845 pm. I first heard the store manager on the phone with 911 telling the police about the robbery, saying the suspect had ducked into some apartment buildings across the street.. When I went into the back to the pharmacy, the young pharmacist was on the phone talking to 911, clearly shaken up. When she got off, she told me a man had jumped over the counter, surprising her. “you can’t be back here,” she said she told him. He then brandished a gun, took some medicine and fled. I heard the store manager then say that he had given chase, thinking the guy was a garden variety shoplifter and not knowing he had a weapon. i walked out of the riteaid to see about 4 or five police cars. the cops were putting on their flack jackets, all carrying shotguns or semiautos. one guy in assault gear (helmet, etc) was walking around an apartment building with his weapon drawn. scary stuff.

The SWAT team has arrived. Photos shortly. Information as it develops. Again, California and 42nd are both blocked at Dawson – don’t know about points west (let us know if you are seeing anything over there). (short video clip added 9:53 pm, SWAT team members gearing up)

9:39 PM UPDATE: We just checked the extent of where traffic is blocked off. California/Brandon on the south (by West Seattle Nursery) – over to 45th on the west, 42nd on the east, and then up to Dawson on the north. So if you need to get between north and south West Seattle, you’re going to have to veer either all the way west toward the water or east toward 35th or Delridge.

10:01 PM UPDATE: Police have moved the roadblock another block north, to Hudson, so that’s the new northern edge. Here are the boundaries, roughly (the red triangle marks the Rite-Aid):

View Larger Map

10:21 PM: No play-by-play to report because what we’re hearing on the scanner is all tactical stuff that “live” media don’t report in case it gives something away to the person who’s being sought. But it’s still a very “active” scene, and co-publisher Patrick is there with the rest of the media while your editor here monitors the scanner and posts updates as they are heard, or called in by P., or e-mailed by WSB’ers.

10:33 PM UPDATE: There’s activity at the scene – a chopper was there for a while – and police are coming out of the apartment building, heading toward the Rite-Aid across the street. Patrick is with the TV crews at the scene and there’s no clear information yet exactly what has happened. He’s seen two women in handcuffs – the robber was reported to have been a man, but there also was scanner traffic at one point an hour or so ago indicating a “separate incident” that police were handling inside the building.

10:55 PM UPDATE:
There’s reportedly been an arrest — Patrick is trying to confirm the circumstances and that this is believed to be the robbery suspect — and California should reopen shortly.

11:01 PM UPDATE:
Traffic back to normal and police leaving. Still working on confirmation of exactly who they have and whether nobody else is believed to be at large.

11:06 PM UPDATE: A captain at the scene tells us the robber IS NOT in custody. Two people who were detained have been released. This may explain why we heard scanner traffic earlier asking how much of a lag there had been between the actual robbery and the call to police. Have seen this happen before, where a suspect is believed to be holed up somewhere – then turns out not to be. We have a call out to the on-call media officer to try to double-verify this, given that it conflicts with what one other media organization reported.

11:17 PM UPDATE:
SPD media unit Officer Renee Witt just called. She confirms: The suspect IS NOT IN CUSTODY – so he was not in the apartment after all. We don’t have a description to share, at this point.

11:37 PM UPDATE: Lt. Ron Smith at Southwest Precinct also confirms the robber was NOT in the apartment, when the SWAT team finally got in. He also confirms the account published above of what happened — pharmacy was robbed, robber showed a gun. So at this point, the search hits a dead end for now — robber still on the loose.

12:12 AM: Adding a few photos before we close this out: First two are from WSB photojournalist Christopher Boffoli:

Co-publisher Patrick took this next one – the bus at right was brought in for potential use if residents had to be evacuated from the apartment building the robber was thought to be holed up in.

62 Replies to "Update: Rite-Aid robbery suspect at large, but SWAT situation over"

  • g March 6, 2009 (9:15 pm)

    It was a robbery at RiteAid, at the pharmacy.

  • WSB March 6, 2009 (9:19 pm)

    Thanks, co-publisher Patrick has just arrived at the scene and will be gathering from there from hereon out – TR

  • Courtney March 6, 2009 (9:30 pm)

    Interesting to note – Seattle Fire Real-Time 911 doesn’t list this incident at all. Live on Alaska/California and heard all the sirens, looked out the window to see the scary SWAT truck go zooming by. Thanks for the heads up WSB, we won’t be walking anywhere for a bit!

  • HMC Rich March 6, 2009 (9:33 pm)

    My Wife called from KIRO TV warning me that the person was loose in our neighborhood. Rich

  • WSB March 6, 2009 (9:33 pm)

    The real-time 911 is a partial misnomer – it ONLY includes fire/medic calls – if no one is hurt or nothing’s burning, you won’t see it on there. So MANY police calls don’t turn up, and we are SO SO SO thankful to folks who e-mail or call when they see heavy police responses – because that may be our only tip – even if we are listening to the scanner, another transmission about something somewhere else may cover over the initial “robbery at Rite-Aid” or whatever call. Anyway, yes, everyone stay safe, since this guy reportedly may be armed and the situation is still in flux … TR

  • WSB March 6, 2009 (9:35 pm)

    Rich – we’re monitoring the scanner too. A lot of it is sensitive information so it is NOT cool to rebroadcast or publish lest police operations be jeopardized, but it’s pretty clear, and they told us at the scene as well, that they believe he’s in a nearby apartment building – TR

  • Fiona March 6, 2009 (9:46 pm)

    Thank you so much for being on it, WSB! We live on 44th right behind Rite-Aid and my husband came home asking about the swat teams. Of course the first thing I said was “Check the Blog!” and sho-nough there you were! I’m grateful that the suspect didn’t head west, and I so hope the folks in that apartment bldg are safe. Thanks again for the info!

  • Kathy March 6, 2009 (9:59 pm)

    I’m on 42nd between Dawson and Brandon. Buses have started coming down 42nd. Can’t get to California on Dawson; but looks like you can get to California on Brandon.

  • Jamie March 6, 2009 (10:04 pm)

    Just to let you all know the cops now have the street closed off at hudson. Going south on California ave

  • snowlion March 6, 2009 (10:08 pm)

    Yeah, we just drove past this, trying to get from Thriftway to Safeway on California. MAD props to the route 54 busdriver, whomever he or she may have been – they navigated tight side roads and two round-a-bouts without running anything over. Impressive!
    I hope they catch whomever this is. I didn’t think this neighborhood could turn into Capitol Hill, but it seems to be trying real hard. What a shame.

  • swimcat March 6, 2009 (10:20 pm)

    Scary- drove by this right after it happened because there were only two cops out in front at about 8:40-8:45 but three more came barreling north on Cali as I drove south to Morgan. I only noticed the initial police because my sister lives in one of those buildings. I hope all of the residents are okay.

  • Jenny March 6, 2009 (10:22 pm)

    Is there a description of the robber? I had sort of a strange encounter with someone on the bus at this time, I’m wondering if it’s related.

  • Ken March 6, 2009 (10:26 pm)

    [quote]I didn’t think this neighborhood could turn into Capitol Hill, but it seems to be trying real hard. What a shame.[/quote]

    What in the world is THAT supposed to mean?

  • Kathy March 6, 2009 (10:28 pm)

    Fox News just arrived.

  • pattc March 6, 2009 (10:36 pm)

    I think the helicopters just arrived.

  • Colleen March 6, 2009 (10:38 pm)

    seriously thankful for the blog! In the middle of the search area and have been trying to figure out what was going on. Don’t know what I didn’t check the blog before.

  • Dude on 45th March 6, 2009 (10:43 pm)

    Funny thing, I though I heard a bunch of cars going by fast about an hour ago. As soon as I heard the heli flying around, I knew something was up. Hope everyone at Rite Aid is okay, and that they lock up the dude who did this. Thanks to the WS Blog for getting the info out!

  • John March 6, 2009 (10:43 pm)

    I liked the good ole days when W. Seattle was boring, but we didn’t shootings in the junction and drugstore cowboys.

  • Krystal March 6, 2009 (10:44 pm)

    It would be great if they caught this person, and he/she also was the person who has been stealing car wheels, breaking into cars on Pigeon Point (or anywhere else), etc. That would take care of all these crimes real quick.

  • changingtimes March 6, 2009 (10:46 pm)

    ha ha ha pattc! you think!! soooooo loud!!!! and we are blocks away from the incident!!!

  • Krystal March 6, 2009 (10:46 pm)

    Is it weird that the cops would have semi-autos and assault gear? Am I jaded from living in other high-crime areas? It seems like a bit of an overreaction, even though the thief has a gun.

  • Dude on 45th March 6, 2009 (10:48 pm)

    Can never have too much hardware when searching out a malcontent such as this!

  • PDieter March 6, 2009 (10:52 pm)

    KIRO just teased it as a suspect stand off

  • Bradley5 March 6, 2009 (10:54 pm)

    Why did it take 1 1/2 hours to get a chopper up? At least I didn’t hear one sooner, and didn’t even see any search lights as it quickly circled the neighborhood.

  • Manuel W. March 6, 2009 (10:56 pm)

    Q13 Fox is reporting police have a suspect in custody. Not much detail, smells premature…

  • WSB March 6, 2009 (10:56 pm)

    B5 – they thought the guy was inside the apt. building from the start. Guardian 1 was on standby if needed, according to the scanner. I am not sure why they brought it in just now but there now reportedly has been an arrest – we are trying to get further confirmation at scene.

  • g March 6, 2009 (10:58 pm)

    King 5 reporting via Twitter that one man is in custody in west seattle rite aid robbery http://twitter.com/KING5Seattle

  • WSB March 6, 2009 (11:00 pm)

    I posted the arrest report. However, we have not confirmed at the scene that this is indeed the person for whom they were looking and I’m not going to believe it till our guys at the scene can confirm it. Been burned too many times before by trusting somebody else’s info. One thing’s for certain, the scene is definitely wrapping up.

  • Restita March 6, 2009 (11:00 pm)

    I was wondering the same as jenny, if there was a description. I had an encounter Tuesday night with a strange acting young guy that was peeping into my martial arts studio’s windows then tried to open one of the (locked) doors to my studio. I went out and he asked me for a dollar for the bus. I said I didn’t have anything. Saw him again last night at Abbondanza….he walked in, looked at my table of friends and asked for a dollar. I wonder if this guy or the guy jenny saw might be related to the robbery??

  • Bradley5 March 6, 2009 (11:05 pm)

    That makes sense. We can all sleep tonight now. Thanks WSB! It’s so great that we have this blog to keep us informed. I tell people all the time about WSB, most of which have not heard of it. You ought to sell bumper stickers or T-shirts. I’d buy one and display it proudly!

  • snowlion March 6, 2009 (11:08 pm)

    Well, it’s a bit tongue in cheek, but it’s not *supposed* to mean anything. What it *means* is that I moved over here to get away from a lot of the encroaching crime that I was starting to see on the Hill -and we lived here for a year and a half pretty much free of most of it – but that’s not the case anymore. After the shooting in front of Talerico’s, the murder across the street, the robbery near the intersection a few blocks away, someone finding bullets in their home down the street and this, I’m seriously starting to rethink our choice; or certainly reevaluate how I feel about our particular neighborhood.
    It may be all par for the course for you and others, but I’m not accustomed to it, and I don’t like it.

  • Kathy March 6, 2009 (11:12 pm)

    So it’s not over and this suspect must be somewhere in the neighborhood….?!?

  • WSB March 6, 2009 (11:20 pm)

    Yes, the robber got away. I just posted that SPD’s media unit officer confirms what a captain told Patrick at the scene. Keep in mind this happened just after 8:30 pm, so chances are he’s way long gone. No description at this point.

  • Dude on 45th March 6, 2009 (11:21 pm)

    Now, that’s a bummer!

  • Jenny March 6, 2009 (11:24 pm)

    I called the police despartment and reported my encounter with this guy. I picked up the bus right by Abbondanza, so we may have seen the same person. I gave them a description, they said they were still working on it and were thankful for the information. We’ll see…

  • changingtimes March 6, 2009 (11:28 pm)

    ha ha ha im glad im not the only person sitting at home on a friday night following the westseattle blog :)

  • snowlion March 6, 2009 (11:31 pm)

    Yikes! Well, unless they find the guy, at this point the best thing to hope for is that he made off with a bunch of Premarin and vitamin C tablets, and not the pain medication he was most likely after.

  • Kathy March 6, 2009 (11:35 pm)

    Love the way the other media reported that a man was in custody and WSB held off until they could confirm! I’m not happy that the guy got away – but I was really glad to know what in the heck was going on in the neighborhood. Where else could we have gotten some accurate info.

  • AD March 6, 2009 (11:38 pm)

    What was with the footage KOMO4 showed of the hand cuffed people (a woman and a man, I believe)? I know they said they were not under arrest, but people of interest. Why did they have to cuff them? Seems strange.

    I feel bad for the employees and customers of Rite Aid. Must have been scary. I really like the pharmacists and workers at Rite Aid.

  • WSB March 6, 2009 (11:42 pm)

    Mostly because these are always fast-moving situations, in flux. I saw one clip of one of those people being taken into the Rite-Aid. If I were a guessing person, I would bet they were taken to robbery witness/es so that it could be confirmed they were NOT the robber. Again, JUST speculation. Police had one witness’s very specific information about a very specific apartment that the robber allegedly had gone into, so if people were found inside that apartment, it goes to reason you’d want to be extra-sure they weren’t involved – TR

  • AD March 6, 2009 (11:58 pm)

    TR- Thanks for your speculation, makes more sense to me now.

  • Ken March 7, 2009 (12:01 am)

    I’m hanging out with some of the people who were detained for 3 hours due to the bogus tip by the rite aid employee who pursued the suspect and mistakenly told police the suspect fled into apartments.

    These people are pretty pissed at losing their friday night and being held up at gunpoint by multiple armed strangers.

  • cjboffoli March 7, 2009 (12:08 am)

    Ken: I guess your friends now know what it feels like to be an Iraqi :-)
    I bet those police officers would rather have been home with their families tonight. And I’d wager that the Rite Aid employee would have preferred to finish their shift in peace. That desperate, reckless person who jumped over that counter tonight to steal drugs is solely to blame for everything that happened.

  • Diane March 7, 2009 (12:09 am)

    Seattle Times just wrote this was in “West Seattle’s Admiral District”; jeesh

  • snowlion March 7, 2009 (12:27 am)

    Way to go, Seattle Times.

  • Dude on 45th March 7, 2009 (12:41 am)

    Exactly the reason I don’t read The Times!

  • JimmyG March 7, 2009 (5:07 am)

    To Krystal above:
    It’s not weird that the cops have semi-autos seeing as that’s what they carry _everyday_ in their holsters while out doing their jobs. And many have assault rifles in their vehicles so they have quick access to a long gun.
    And some of them carry “assault gear” in their vehicles. What you’re calling “assault gear” is equipment to protect them. Do you want the cops going into a potentially dangerous situation without a helmet or other protective equipment?

  • Misty March 7, 2009 (6:10 am)

    I live on 42nd and I was wondering what was going on. I could hear the buses driving by. Thanks for keeping us informed!

  • Dreamland March 7, 2009 (6:53 am)

    So, WSB, how do we know who our block watch captains are and how to contact? There is so much happening within 2 or 3 blocks of my home (Fairmount Springs) that I am becoming tense about living here.

  • CB March 7, 2009 (7:35 am)

    Great. 2 murders and now this… and all within a couple of blocks of my house. What happened to our sleepy little neighborhood?

  • WSB March 7, 2009 (8:34 am)

    Dreamland – Are you on the Fairmount Springs mail group? If not, you should be able to sign up through fairmountsprings.org – and knowing how vigilant those folks have been, I think they’d be able to point you there. If not, you can contact Benjamin Kinlow, the crime prevention coordinator at the Southwest Precinct – his link is on the Crime Watch page (scroll down to “resources”) – TR

  • valvashon March 7, 2009 (8:40 am)


    I wasn’t there at the scene last night, but what probably showed up was a “Q-13 Fox News” live truck of some sort, not “Fox News”, more properly known as “The Fox News Channel”. Please don’t confuse our local news operation with that awful cable channel I jokingly refer to as “The Fox Nuisance Channel”. We really have little to do with each other, and they certainly don’t control our editorial direction.

  • zero-to-life in West Seattle March 7, 2009 (8:52 am)

    I don’t think this is the first time this pharmacy has been robbed. A few months ago I was at the Westwood Rite Aid and overheard two of the employees talking to each other at the cash registers. The one (who was on the phone) told the other that they needed to tell their pharmacist that the California Rite Aid had just been robbed. When I asked them about it, they verified that it had just happened.

  • Krystal March 7, 2009 (9:31 am)

    Jimmy G-
    I didn’t know they carried that assault gear (I was referring to a post above my own) in their vehicles (SWAT vehicles or cars?) No, I don’t want anyone else to get hurt, but I lived in a huge city with tons of crime, and I saw a lot, but the cops never seemed to guard themselves so much (maybe they didn’t have time, or the funding). Did the TV news crews focus on the cops wearing this gear? Just curious, I think that would make for good footage–we know how the TV news lives for footage like that. I didn’t mean to sound insensitive, but I just thought it seemed a little odd coming from my previous experience of crime in my old neighborhood.

  • WSB March 7, 2009 (9:36 am)

    For TV, this was a short story. For West Seattle, bigger – with the focus including practical side effects like “avoid roads X and Y” – and that’s what neighborhood news sources are all about. BTW you’ll see a video clip in the story above of an officer suiting up and also Christopher’s photo looking inside one of the department vehicles with gear.

  • CB March 7, 2009 (1:09 pm)

    If the criminal had a mobile device, he could have logged on and seen the google map showing the containment area.

    WSB: Perhaps you should consider keeping this info to yourself in the interest of public safety? Sometimes there is such a thing as too much information.

  • WSB March 7, 2009 (1:21 pm)

    We kept A LOT of information off here last night because we’ve worked for years with police departments in SWAT situations that drew media coverage and we are well aware of what is NOT to be reported – what exactly the officers are doing, where exactly they are, what positions they have taken up in and around the target area (in this case, the apartment building).
    But none of what we omitted was information that was vital to public safety or access.
    Road-closure locations have never been requested to be offlimits and that’s information that’s pretty much impossible to keep a lid on. Plus, it’s a matter of safety. If that’s the area police want people to stay out of, people need to know that, so they can avoid it or, if they’re in that area, so they can make sure their doors are locked etc.
    I don’t even know that the spots we mentioned were the exact “containment area” but it’s certainly where the roads were blocked, and we along with other news sources report that in a variety of situations. As do the “readers.”

  • Yo March 7, 2009 (9:53 pm)

    There is a clerk at the 76 station on Fauntleroy that also works at Rite-Aid.

    Conceivably (although I have no idea) she could have been working during both robberies (this one and the 76 station robbery a few weeks back).

  • fluorescent carl March 7, 2009 (11:48 pm)

    Maybe the rite aid Ghost will take care of this job…

    Crime in West Seattle is only going to rise with the population and the unemployment rate… Ws Seattle is fast becoming downtown. Thats the real crime!

  • Devin March 8, 2009 (12:58 pm)

    Anyone else curious as to why he would steal medicine instead of money?

    Maybe he’s got a sick kid at home. Or needs a prescription he can’t fill himself.

    I feel sorry for the guy. Seems like a good case for universal health care.

  • JimmyG March 8, 2009 (3:10 pm)

    Devin, in a word: Oxy. Let’s not try to insert an altruistic “stealing for a sick kid” story into what this felon just did.

    Most pharmacy robberies are for the Oxy which is sold on the street for $20 a tablet, often higher. You get a couple of bottles of Oxy and it’s sweet money for them plus a good share of the robbers are addicted to this poor mans heroin.

    Meth is passe. Oxy is where its at nowadays.

  • Kristina March 9, 2009 (10:19 am)

    I live just a couple of blocks away from this scene, and when I got home (later than usual) with my six year old that night, there was a police car with flashing lights at the end of our alley. I was glad for police presence but completely spooked by the need for it. Thang goodness for our giant black dog – I felt a lot safer with him in our yard because he wasn’t acting concerned and he would definitely notice a prowler.

    I am saddened by the criminal activity in our beautiful neighborhood. What is happening? Is it the economy? Is it really that bad? Stealing hubcaps is bad enough, but crimes at gunpoint? I’m horrified, frightened, and sad.

Sorry, comment time is over.