Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Police probe robbery surge

Patron seriously injured in lounge holdup

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Winnipeg police are probing whether there could be any links between a sudden surge in brazen robberies -- including one that left a Good Samaritan critically injured -- which have targeted local businesses over the past week.

No arrests have been made following three separate heists at crowded locales this week.

The most serious robbery occurred early Friday morning when three or four men stormed inside Jeffrey's Restaurant and Lounge on Henderson Highway, just south of the Chief Peguis Trail, as it was closing about 2 a.m. The group was armed with bear spray and a knife and confronted staff members inside the lounge.

At some point, a customer tried to intervene and was attacked and quickly overpowered. The 38-year-old man was stabbed at least once while the suspects fled with cash.

Police and paramedics rushed to the scene and the victim was taken to hospital in life-threatening condition. His status was upgraded to stable later in the day.

Management at the popular North Kildonan hangout didn't return calls seeking comment on Friday and closed the restaurant until today. The stabbing victim is apparently a well-liked regular who was trying to help. No suspect description has been released by police.

Police were still investigating that crime when another armed robbery happened just a few blocks north on Henderson Highway Friday afternoon around 2:30 p.m. Police have released few details about the incident, but at least one suspect held up McGrath Diamonds inside McIvor Mall. There were no injuries.

A male suspect entered the store and tried to smash a jewelry case. The suspect stole a small amount of jewelry and then ran from the mall.   

The suspect is described as Caucasian, in his late 20s and about six-feet tall with some facial hair.

Sources tell the Free Press it's highly unusual to have a midday robbery such as this, especially inside a shopping mall where there would be many potential witnesses. Money, and the drugs thieves and robbers are often addicted to and desperate to purchase, are typically the motivating factors whenever a surge in these types of crimes are seen in the city.

Members of the major crimes unit are taking a close look at similarities between the Jeffrey's incident and one that occurred last Sunday evening at the Boston Pizza on St. James Street.

At least two men armed with bear spray and a crowbar confronted staff inside the restaurant just after 10 p.m. They fled with cash in a waiting blue Toyota car parked outside. Police say both men were wearing dark clothing. There were no injuries.

Police are asking for public assistance in all three robberies. Anyone with information is asked to call investigators at 204-986-6219 or Crime Stoppers at 204-786-TIPS (8477).

Meanwhile, police said Friday they have arrested a suspect in an outstanding bank robbery that occurred just before Christmas.

Christopher Thomas Hastings, 26, was located on Wednesday in the Point Douglas area. He is facing several charges. A warrant was issued for Hastings shortly after the Dec. 20 robbery at a bank in the 1500 block of Kenaston Boulevard.

Police say three men burst into the bank and confronted tellers before fleeing with cash in a stolen pickup truck. Police quickly identified Hastings as a suspect, saying he was out on parole at the time. However, the investigation remains active regarding the other two suspects.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 16, 2013 A3


Updated on Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 9:33 AM CDT: Updates with additional information on jewelry store robbery.

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