Just a day after a hotel clerk was doused with lighter fluid and threatened, police say the same suspect tried to use a similar trick in an unsuccessful robbery. Investigators also believe the same suspect committed a robbery about a week earlier.
Police say the suspect entered the lobby of the Clarion Hotel, located at 314 W. Bijou St., and demanded cash around 1:30 a.m. Saturday. The suspect proceeded to douse the clerk with lighter fluid and threatened to set him on fire.
One officer told 11 News it's unclear exactly what happened next, but he thinks it's likely the lighter failed to work at that fateful moment. When that happened, the suspect snatched money from the cash register and ran away from the area.
Officers and a K-9 unit searched the area, but couldn’t find the suspect in that robbery.
Then, on Sunday, officers responded to a very similar incident at the Coaltrain Wine & Liquor store at 330 W. Uintah Street. In that case, the suspect doused employees with an unknown liquid and again threatened to set them on fire. Although he demanded cash, police say he left without getting any money.
Again, police searched the area unsuccessfully.
11 News talked with Coaltrain manager Austin Sherwood. He told us the robber walked around the store as if he was casing it before making his move. He acted as though he was buying something, but ultimately left the store, only to return eight minutes later.
"You know, it was kind of shocking to them. That was the biggest thing, it was a shock because he just kind of sprung it on them," Sherwood said.
Sherwood said the suspect sprayed the liquid from a mustard bottle.
In both cases, the suspect was described as a black male, 20’s, around 6-foot tall, weighing 170-180 pounds. In the Clairon Hotel robbery, he was described as having a scruffy beard with bumps on his face and neatly dressed. In the Coaltrain robbery, he was wearing khaki pants, a gray hoodie, blue jacket and sunglasses.
Additionally, CSPD investigators believe the same suspect is responsible for robbing the Family Dollar at 22 N. Spruce Street on May 12. They say the suspect’s description matches in that case.
If you see anyone matching his description, call CSPD right away at 444-7000, or call Crime Stoppers at 634-STOP.
11 News has also asked CSPD if it could be the same suspect who has used rocks and bricks as weapons in other robberies. The descriptions appear to be very similar, but police haven’t said they believe there is a connection.