An armed robber wearing a red bandanna over his face robbed a Fircrest espresso stand Wednesday and might have been involved in nine other holdups in Pierce County in the past couple of months.
In addition to the holdup of the Cafe Elite stand at 65th Avenue West and South 19th Street in Fir-crest, the robber is suspected of hitting a South Hill stand earlier Wednesday and a stand on Hannah Pierce Road West in University Place on Tuesday.
A weapon was used in most of the robberies, Pierce County sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said.
“We believe the guy is escalating,” Troyer said. “We need to stop him before someone is hurt.”
The robber began his spree March 25 at a stand on East Canyon Road, officials said.
He carries a black handgun and usually strikes in the early morning, often about 6 a.m. He forces the baristas at gunpoint to sit on the floor or go into the bathroom and tells them to count to 100.
At least twice, the robber has taken the barista’s car keys, and once smashed the victim’s cell phone.
The first of Wednesday’s two holdups happened about 2:10 a.m. at the Big Foot stand on 135th Street East and Meridian Avenue East. The robber ordered the cashier into the bathroom at gunpoint before taking the money and fleeing.
In the Fircrest robbery, the 22-year-old barista was opening up at 5:15 a.m. and was putting her tip jar outside the drive-through window when the man appeared with a gun, Fircrest Police Chief John Cheese-man said.
She told police the robber forced the window open and jumped inside. In addition to the red bandanna, the man wore a dark hooded sweatshirt and jeans.
He bound the barista with electrical tape, took some cash and fled, Cheeseman said. He also took her car keys and car.
The robber told the woman not to move for five minutes or he would return and kill her, Cheese-man said. She was able to free herself and ran to a nearby restaurant and called 911, Cheeseman said.
The barista was not hurt but “is really shook up,” the chief said.
The woman’s car was found a couple of blocks away in a stall at an apartment complex just off 64th Street West. The robber apparently had another car waiting there, Cheeseman said.
Tacoma Pierce County Crime Stoppers will be offering a reward for information leading to the robber’s capture and conviction, Troy-er said. Crime Stoppers can be reached at 253-591-5959.
Mike Archbold: 253-597-8692 firstname.lastname@example.org
Staff writer Joyce Chen contributed to this report.