Security footage shows Bellingham robbery that led to shootout

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDOctober 11, 2013 

BELLINGHAM - Security footage made public this week shows how close a Bellingham gas station owner came to getting shot point-blank by an armed robber at a Shell on Meridian Street.

Two months after the Aug. 8 robbery, the Bellingham Police Department released a trove of reports, videos and photos from a heist that ended in a police shootout on Mount Baker Highway.

One camera filmed two men in baseball caps hopping out of purplish Honda car with after-market taillights at 4:49 p.m. A man dressed in all black holds a short-barreled shotgun.

Footage from inside the store at 4240 Meridian Street captures the owner, David Larson, selling a six-pack to a customer. Afterward, he walks down the snack food aisle to restock the beer cooler. The two men rush in. The armed man can't find the clerk at first, then turns around and spots Larson walking his direction.

In a witness account Larson recalls, at first, he smirked. He thought it was some prankster with a pop gun. Then the robber pumped the shotgun. The video shows a shell hit the floor.

"Give me your (expletive) money or I'll blow your (expletive) head off," the gunman said, according to Larson's statement.

The man in black picks up the shell. The second man, who wears a white Oakland Raiders hat and a gray shirt, rifles through the cash register.

"Is this all the (expletive) money you have?" the man in gray told Larson.

The gunman keeps the barrel pointed at Larson. They leave with several hundred dollars in cash. The clerk puts his hands on a back countertop. But when it's safe, he jumps up and presses an alarm. He runs outside to look for the getaway car.

Bellingham Police Sgt. Don Almer spotted a Honda matching the description headed toward Mount Baker Highway. Prosecutors allege the driver, identified as Pastor Lopez-Franco, 20, of Brewster, fired two rounds out the window at Almer's patrol car. The Honda crashed in a roundabout at East Smith Road. Lopez-Franco ducked down and kept shooting, according to police reports. No officers were hurt.

Lopez-Franco, the alleged driver and man in black, took several bullets to his body. Police found him on his back, by the driver's door, with the shotgun about a foot from his leg, according to the charges. Lopez-Franco spent a month at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. He made his first court appearance in a wheelchair.

Rafael Martinez-Garcia, 25, of Cheney, put his hands up in the passenger seat soon after the crash. He suffered graze wounds to his arm in the shootout.

Both men have been charged with first-degree robbery, four counts of first-degree assault and attempting to elude police. They're awaiting trial.

WATCH THE VIDEO

To watch security footage from various cameras during the Aug. 8 robbery of a Shell station on Meridian Street in Bellingham on our YouTube channel, click here.

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