BELLEVILLE — Police are investigating three armed robberies, which may be connected to the same suspect. No injuries were reported in any of the robberies.
The latest robbery occurred about 3:50 a.m. Saturday at the Midwest Petroleum convenience store. Belleville Police Detective Karl Kraft said a suspect wearing a ski mask over his face displayed a small, silver semi-automatic pistol and robbed the store located at 1200 Royal Heights Road. The suspect escaped with an undisclosed amount of money.
Police released the following description of the suspect: a tall, thin black male between 20 to 30 years old wearing blue jeans, dark-colored tennis shoes and a dark-colored jacket over a light-colored sweatshirt.
Jon Marshall of Belleville, a regular customer at Midwest Petroleum, said he never had any concerns about shopping at the convenience store as the parking lot is well lit and the store is monitored by cameras.
Belleville police released surveillance photos of the suspect.
The armed robbery at Midwest Petroleum may be connected to two other armed robberies that occurred Friday, according to police.
The Cheap Cigarettes store on Sherman Avenue was robbed at 2:30 p.m. Friday afternoon, and the Dollar General Store in Wade Square was robbed about 7:15 p.m. Friday. Both stores located on Illinois 161 were robbed by a masked gunman who displayed a small, silver semi-automatic pistol.
In addition to robbing Cheap Cigarettes, Kraft said the gunman also robbed several patrons inside the store.
While robbing the Dollar General, the suspect fired a round off in the air and proceeded to rob the clerk as well as customers inside the store.
Dollar General customer Melissa Blumer said she went to the store shortly after the robbery Friday night to get conditioner. "If I came five or 10 minutes sooner, that could have been me inside the store," Blumer said outside the store Saturday night.
Blumer said she normally tries to shop at the store during the day to ensure her safety.
Dollar General customer Antonio Sanders said he was concerned for his safety as well. "I'm kind of wondering how it got to this point with all the armed robberies," said Sanders, who was shopping at the store Saturday night.
Police are concerned the armed robbery suspect is becoming more violent. "The suspect has demonstrated increasingly more violent behavior, which puts the public at risk," Kraft said.
The suspect in the Cheap Cigarettes and the Dollar General robberies was described as a tall, thin black male between 20 to 30 years old wearing jeans, white tennis shoes and a brown Carhartt-style jacket with a hood.
Kraft said a K-9 track was conducted in all three robberies and indicated the suspects were probably in a vehicle near the scene. Police believe the suspect may also be working with an accomplice, which is acting as a lookout.
The suspect who may have been involved in the three armed robberies in Belleville may also be linked to a robbery that occurred at the same Cheap Cigarette store on Dec. 2 and one at a liquor store in Swansea.
Swansea Police Chief Mike Arnold said a masked man armed with a handgun robbed Malibu Vineyards Liquor and Tab on North Illinois Street earlier this month. No shots were fired and no injuries were reported, Arnold said.
An aggravated armed robbery also occurred about 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at the LivRite Fitness, located at 1024 Carlyle Ave. An 80-year-old victim was exiting the gym when he was approached by two black males with their faces covered by bandanas, wearing black hats and dark clothing. One of the suspects had a handgun and forced the victim to hand over his wallet. The suspects fled the area on foot.
Anyone with information on any of these armed robberies is asked to call the Belleville Police Department at 618-234-1218 or CrimeStoppers at 866-371-TIPS (8477).
Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or email@example.com.