Police arrest 3 suspected in pot shop robbery, but the investigation is just beginning

The Bellingham Police Department made three arrests after a robbery of a marijuana store Thursday evening and are working to see if the suspects are linked to a string of knife-point robberies the past three weeks at area motels and pot shops.

James Michael Dean, 26, Angelica Evajune Willard, 26, and Ceclia Corrin Morris, 28, were all booked into Whatcom County Jail on suspicion of first-degree robbery and first-degree theft, according to information provided to The Bellingham Herald by Lt. Claudia Murphy.

“The collaboration of excellent descriptive information from the public, along with a hard-working, dedicated police crew resulted in a robbery team’s capture,” Bellingham Police Chief David Doll said in a press release. “I am so proud of the tenacity of our patrol officers and support personnel, who were able to act upon public reporting information — a true example of community policing and offender accountability.”

Officers responded to an alarm at 2020 Solutions on Iron Street at approximately 10 p.m. and learned that a suspect, later identified as Dean, reportedly came into the store armed with a knife and wearing a mask covering part of his face, demanded money and told everyone in the store to get on the ground.

Dean left the store with $5,500 in cash and stole the employee tip jars on the way out, Murphy said, before he was seen getting into an older gray van parked nearby.

Patrol officers searched for the van, and shortly after 11 p.m. located it at a gas station on Meridian Street, where they found Willard and Morris inside the vehicle. Willard and Morris reportedly told officers that they drove to 2020 Solutions earlier along with Dean.

Officers then went to the 3800 block of Primrose Lane where they found Dean, and based on the investigation, developed probable cause to arrest all three.

“We’re just glad they were captured and we can feel safe once again,” 2020 Solutions Director of Actuation Aaron Nelson told The Bellingham Herald Friday. “We can’t thank the Bellingham Police Department enough about how diligent they were in their efforts to catch these people.”

Police investigate links to previous robberies

Based on the evidence in Thursday night’s robbery, Murphy said detectives are beginning to see whether Dean, Willard and Morris were connected to or responsible for any other recent robberies.

Among the other recent robberies of Bellingham-area businesses that reportedly occurred at knife point were:

▪ A Jan. 16 robbery of the Baymont Inn.

▪ A Jan. 19 robbery of the Roadway Inn.

▪ A Jan. 20 robbery of the Baymont Inn.

▪ A Jan. 25 robbery of the Best Western Heritage Inn.

▪ A Jan. 26 robbery of the Baymont Inn.

▪ A Jan. 29 robbery of the Quality Inn.

A Feb. 3 robbery at 2020 Solutions on Iron Street.

▪ A Feb. 6 robbery of an unidentified motel in the 200 block of North Samish Way.

Nelson said he also has heard in discussions with employees at other Bellingham cannabis stores that at least two other establishments suffered robberies similar to the two 2020 Solutions had.

Bellingham Police are investigating a recent rash of six armed robberies and attempted robberies at knifepoint of motels located along the Meridian Street corridor since Jan. 16, 2019.

David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.