by Eric Mullens
WALSENBURG — It was nearly closing time Monday evening, with eight employees and only one customer left in the store. As staff prepared to close Star Drug for the night, a trio of masked men, at least one armed with a pistol, entered the business and made their way to the pharmacy counter.
Two employees of the store were assaulted. Walsenburg Police Captain Vince Suarez told the Denver Post one of the suspects shoved the two women to the ground and struck them in the head with the gun. One of the victims was in her 20s and the other was in her 40s, Suarez added.
Walsenburg Police Captain Vince Suarez said the three men demanded employees behind the counter fill a bag they brought with them with prescription drugs. The robbers did not bother to take any currency from the cash register. Drugs in hand, they left the drugstore and sped north on Main Street in a stolen vehicle.
The employees were not seriously injured, but the threats, intimidation and violent intent of the criminals was obvious.
Suarez said, “They definitely weren’t after the money. They were just grabbing what they could.” “The whole robbery took only about three minutes. But considering that one Oxycontin pill can sell for between $20 to $25 on the street, the robbery involved well over $10,000 in drugs,” he said. As of presstime, police were still waiting on a complete inventory of the prescription medication that was stolen.
Before robbing the drug store ten minutes before its 6 pm closing time, the trio had attempted to steal a vehicle in the 1000 block of W. Seventh Street. The vehicle was entered, but the brigands could not get it started. They turned their attention to another vehicle in the same area, a tan Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo. This time the robbers were successful. They popped the steering column and hot wired the SUV, then headed to the pharmacy.
Alert citizens would later report seeing the vehicle, and police found it abandoned in the 500 block of E. 4th St. The Jeep has been impounded and was subject to evidentiary processing Tuesday afternoon. Suarez said he didn’t know why the trio abandoned their stolen get-a-way vehicle. A thorough check of the Jeep this week may supply an answer to that, and possibly to the identity of the thieves in the form of fingerprints.
In addition to Walsenburg Police, Huerfano County Sheriff’s Deputies and Colorado State Patrol Troopers worked together in the search Monday night for the suspects.
Walsenburg police deployed their K-9 tracking dog Max, who picked up a scent and led officers to the area around Hwy 10 (E. Fifth St.) and I-25 before the trail went cold.
Acting on a law enforcement officer’s tip there appeared to be some people in the Stacy Drive area who matched the general description of the suspects, police were sent there and checked a number of individuals who were patted down and released. The law officer who called in the tip was on I-25 at the time according to Suarez.
Suarez said the nine victims of the robbery were understandably shaken up Monday night, but they all agreed, even though masked, all three of the male suspects appeared to have dark complexions and thin builds. The tallest of the suspects was wearing a blue hoodie, white shirt, and black pants with his face concealed by a blue bandana. He was armed with a taser device. The second suspect, a bit shorter and also armed with a taser device, was wearing a black hoodie, black pants and a black ski mask. The third suspect, also a short male, was wearing a black hoodie, grey pants, and a black ski mask. He was armed with a handgun.
As police, deputies, and troopers fanned out across Walsenburg, a call came into the dispatch center saying someone had attempted to break into a vehicle in the 200 block of Maple. It isn’t known if this attempted vehicle burglary is related to the armed robbery, but that vehicle was scheduled to be processed Tuesday afternoon. By Tuesday some tips had come in to the police department, and officers are assigned to follow up those reports of suspicious activity. Surveillance videos are being sought by police from any business in the area of Main and Seventh Street, and anyone with information regarding this crime should call Huerfano County Emergency Dispatch Center at 719-738-1044 and ask to be connected with Captain Vince Suarez.