A person wearing a Halloween mask robbed the JJ’s In and Out on Harris Avenue Thursday night, police said.
Store owner Jay Chanan said he’s offering a $500 reward for information that leads to an arrest. According to Chanan, this is the second robbery in about a month at that location.
“I just don’t want these thieves to think it’s that easy to go in and rob places,” Chanan said Friday afternoon. “It’s just sickening.”
Police arrived at the convenience store at 2019 Harris Ave. just before 11 p.m. in response to a panic alarm, said Bellingham police Lt. Don Almer. Joyce Heberden, 22, the only employee working the night shift, had pulled the alarm moments after the robber left, and surveillance video inside the store caught the entire incident.
The 30-second clip shows a person wearing a mask and hood walk into the store and directly to the counter. Heberden’s hands go up before the robber reaches the counter. Though police do not yet know the suspect’s gender, Heberden said the gravelly voice, build and size led her to believe it was a man.
The suspect made no direct threats and did not display a weapon, Heberden and police said, but made it clear what was wanted.
“Even while he was walking in the door, he was yelling, ‘Give me the money,’” Heberden said, adding the suspect repeated the demand about 10 times before tossing a purple Crown Royal drawstring bag to her. She emptied the register into the bag before handing it back.
Chanan and Heberden said they believe the robber is the same person – or at least associated with the person – who robbed the store a month earlier. In that incident, they said, the person emptied the till but also took rolled change from another secret location beneath the counter. The robber Thursday night knew about the extra stash of change, and demanded it also be placed in the bag. But the store had relocated that money after the first robbery, Heberden said.
You can’t know how to react in those situations until you actually live through them. I never thought I’d be able to do what I did. Joyce Heberden, JJ’s In and Out cashier
The suspect briefly steps away from the counter before grabbing the bag and hurrying out the door.
“I told him there was no money there, because there wasn’t, and he got angry,” Heberden said. “That’s the point where he walks away from the counter and then leaves.”
About $250 was taken from the register, Chanan said.
Police used a dog to briefly search the area, but the scent didn’t take officers very far, Almer said. Police were following another lead, he added, but couldn’t give further details amid the investigation.
The suspect, who also wore gloves, was about 5-foot-9, 200 pounds, and wore baggy gray sweatpants, a green and blue flannel jacket over a light-gray hooded sweatshirt, Timberland-style boots, and a cheap Halloween mask, Almer said.
Heberden was not physically injured in the robbery, but said she was shaken up. Though the store was set to close at midnight, she locked the door at 11:30 to finish her shift. She was too scared to take out the trash, she said.
Being witness to a robbery is difficult to prepare for, she added.
“You can’t know how to react in those situations until you actually live through them,” Heberden said. “I never thought I’d be able to do what I did.”
Chanan said the two recent robberies are the only ones he’s dealt with since opening the first JJ’s store on Douglas Avenue 12 years ago. He plans to install more cameras and increase security patrols, he said.