Press-Republican

July 11, 2012

Walgreens robbed

Allegedly stole prescriptiondrugs; suspect still at large

By FELICIA KRIEG, Press-Republican
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — Police are still searching for a man who allegedly stole an undisclosed amount of Oxycontin and Oxycodone from Walgreens on Cornelia Street Tuesday afternoon.

This marks the second manhunt here in a little more than a week.

Police based their description on some “very good” surveillance video captured by security cameras in the drugstore as well as information from witnesses, Plattsburgh City Police Chief Desmond Racicot said.

He described the suspect as white, tall and thin, in his late 20s to early 30s, with a black goatee. He was wearing a black cap under a gray hoodie with a white design on the front and sunglasses. The sleeves of the hoodie were pushed up, and he was wearing blue jeans. 

TOOK OFF RUNNING

There were a few customers in the drugstore at about 2:30 p.m. when the man “nonchalantly” walked up to the pharmacy counter, located in the back corner of the store, and passed a note to the pharmacist saying he had a knife and wanted drugs, Racicot said.

The man didn’t show a weapon, and no one in the store was injured.

“He didn’t start running until he actually got outside of the store and took off running through the parking lot toward the tree line” behind Burger King, Racicot said.

It wasn’t known whether he escaped on foot or by vehicle, but within minutes, authorities were searching the environs, including Burger King next door and other businesses. Customers in the drive-thru at Dunkin’ Donuts were surprised to see several police officers in the parking lot.

Police were contacting area pharmacies, giving employees details related to the robbery in case the suspect tried to get more prescription drugs from another store.

Police collected surveillance footage from Burger King and Sunshine Sunoco, across the street from Walgreens.

ON THE TRAIL

Walgreens, where a command post was set up, was closed for an hour or so as investigators questioned employees; a store representative said they couldn’t comment on the holdup. 

Forensic specialists were collecting physical evidence from the store in an effort to identify the robber.

Just before 3:30 p.m., a scanner report said a police dog was on the trail, moving west behind Burger King and Dunkin’ Donuts, then progressing south toward Haley Drive. Already, authorities were searching the wooded area bounded by Haley, Cogan Avenue, Cornelia Street, Broad Street and Leonard Avenue.

Also targeted was the area behind Texas Roadhouse.

Early on, a patrol car was sent to the area near Plattsburgh State Field House on Rugar Street.

CHOPPER HELP

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Border Patrol had a helicopter searching from the air and was also providing a canine unit. At least two choppers were circling the area, just as they did Monday, July 2, when a heavyset black man robbed NBT Bank one mile west on Route 3 in the Town of Plattsburgh of an undisclosed amount of money.

Police say that suspect is Oneil O. Stephenson, also known as Philippe Francois of Brooklyn, who has ties to the North Country.

‘VERY DESPERATE’

The suspect in Thursday’s crime had a very exact plan in mind before entering the drug store. 

“He wanted specific drugs,” Racicot said.

“That makes people very desperate. You see these trends across the nation. Robbing a pharmacy, robbing people when they come out of the pharmacy for prescriptions. It’s a very serious thing. What even makes it more dangerous is the fact that these people are very, very desperate,” Racicot said.

“He should not be encountered by the public.”

‘GETTING NERVOUS’

Loghan Delisle, who was working the drive-thru window at Burger King at the time of the robbery, saw police cars pull in to the parking lot at Walgreens 15 minutes after the 2:30 crime.

Curious members of the public watched police talk from their parked cars in Burger King’s lot.

“Every car that came through the drive-thru kept asking,” she said.

The fact that police haven’t located the NBT bank robber may have given some people the idea that they can get away with similar crimes, Delisle said.

“People think they can rob places now because they haven’t caught a bank robber,” Delisle said.

“I’m kind of getting nervous,” Sunshine Sunoco associate Kristen Bullock said.

Bullock was at the store’s register at the time of the robbery. Next to the cash register there are windows that give her a view of the the drugstore’s front doors, interrupted only by traffic.

But she didn’t see anything “more than usual.”

“We don’t expect that around here. This is Plattsburgh.”

Assisting with both the Walgreens and NBT Bank robberies are the Clinton County Sheriff’s Department, Plattsburgh State University Police and New York State Police.

— News Editor Suzanne Moore contributed to this report.