Crime

Man with robbery record accused of robbing Bellingham coffee stand

Bellingham police released this sketch of a man who robbed Buzz Thru Coffee on Meridian Street on March 15. The sketch helped lead them to Zachary Scott Ranahan, who was arrested.
Bellingham police released this sketch of a man who robbed Buzz Thru Coffee on Meridian Street on March 15. The sketch helped lead them to Zachary Scott Ranahan, who was arrested. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

An Everson man who robbed a Bellingham coffee stand six years ago has been charged with robbing another.

A police sketch helped detectives to identify Zachary Scott Ranahan, 29, as a possible suspect in a robbery at Buzz Thru Coffee, 2605 Meridian St., according to charging papers.

On the evening of March 15, a young-looking man ordered an espresso shake at the drive-up window around 5:44 p.m., according to charging papers.

Soon after the barista turned around to make the drink, the man climbed through the window, the charges state. He said he needed money. “What?” asked the barista. He told her something to the effect of: “I won’t hurt you if you give me the money.”

So she opened the register. As he grabbed cash, she clambered out the drive-thru window, cutting her leg on metal badly enough that she needed stitches. The man raced off. He was described as white, clean-shaven, a stocky 5-foot-7, in a grayish beanie and a gray “track suit-like outfit.”

Around that time a witness at a nearby business on Meridian saw someone run between two buildings, jump into a red two-door car and drive off.

Two days later police released a sketch of the man, and by the next week detectives got a tip that the drawing looked kind of like Ranahan.

State troopers pulled over a red Honda Civic with a broken brake light off of Meridian Street around 8:20 p.m. March 23. The driver handed over an ID for a man named Richard.

Charging papers say the photo resembled the driver. Richard, however, was 6-foot-1. This man was closer to 5-foot-6. The trooper asked about the discrepancy.

The man hesitated before saying something like: “Let me get my real ID,” according to charging papers. Then he ran.

One block north he knocked on an apartment door off Westerly Road. A woman holding a baby opened it, thinking her boyfriend had returned from grocery shopping. The stranger forced his way in and hid in the bathroom.

Moments later her boyfriend returned and tried to convince the man to leave, according to Bellingham police. He wouldn’t.

So the couple offered him a ride (and surreptitiously called 911). Officers converged on Ranahan as he sat in the resident’s car around 8:50 p.m.

Police found brass knuckles on him with a built-in spring-loaded blade, according to charging papers.

Ranahan had warrants out for his arrest for driving under the influence and misdemeanor theft. Now he’s charged with second-degree burglary, second-degree robbery, first-degree criminal impersonation, residential burglary, and obstructing law enforcement.

Superior Court Commissioner Martha Gross set bail at $100,000 in the robbery case and $20,000 in the break-in. He was still in jail as of Wednesday, April 6.

Ranahan has spent the past six years in and out of prison for felony theft, forgery, bail jumping, burglary and robbery.

On the afternoon of March 25, 2010, he and another man, Joshua Allen Veliz, 24, robbed the Cordata Cruisin Coffee stand, a few hundred feet from the apartment on Westerly.

Court records show Veliz ordered a drink around 3:35 p.m. and, as a barista gave him the bill, he lunged at her with a knife. Ranahan, with a bandana over his face, climbed in through the drive-thru window and threatened the two baristas inside with a knife.

Afterward at the scene the baristas found a man’s wallet on the ground with a driver’s license that belonged to Veliz — and from there it did not take police long to identify their suspects.

Less than two months later both men pleaded guilty to robbery in the first degree. Ranahan served a prison sentence of four years.

In 2014 he was charged in two other felony cases.

In one, police were called because he was yelling and acting high in a Dairy Queen bathroom. On the sink officers found a plastic lid coated with a sticky dark substance. (He later pleaded guilty to a reduced to charge of soliciting to possess heroin.)

At the time of his arrest he was out on bail after he’d been charged with stealing more than $20,000 in tools — two plasma cutters, two magnetic drills, a paint sprayer and more— from a shop on Aldrich Road.

The owner found some of the stolen tools on Craigslist, which led him to get in touch with Ranahan by phone. Ranahan eventually admitted to carrying out the burglary with another man. In hopes of avoiding criminal charges, he agreed to help recover what he could.

He was charged, however, and he served a 14-month sentence for that break-in. Ranahan told sheriff’s deputies his accomplice kept all of the proceeds from the theft.

“He said he received a little bit of heroin,” the charges say, “and that was it.”

Caleb Hutton: 360-715-2276, @bhamcaleb

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