Four face charges following armed robberyTwo men and two women were apprehended following an armed robbery at the Fig Tree Garden and Home Décor store in Cloquet on Friday.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Two men and two women were apprehended following an armed robbery at the Fig Tree Garden and Home Décor store in Cloquet on Friday.
Rico Gause, 37, of Duluth; Geri Mathison, 30, of Duluth; Shane Anderson, 23, of Duluth; and Sydney Lakatos, 20, of Ashland, Wis., have all been charged with first-degree aggravated robbery in relation to the incident. They made their initial appearances in Carlton County Court on Monday, and were held over until Wednesday for Rule 8 hearings to allow more time for the balance of the reports to be filed.
The criminal complaints filed against the four stated the robbery was reported at approximately 5:57 p.m. Aug. 16 by an employee of the business. Police responded to the store, which is located on Highway 33 North in the Sunnyside neighborhood.
The employee told authorities she was working the front counter of the store when a white male wearing dark clothing and a black male wearing a white T-shirt and plaid shorts entered the business. Both men were wearing camouflage masks across their faces.
She went on to say the white male brandished a semi-automatic handgun and held it up to her while demanding she open the register. The black male then went behind the counter to watch the employee after she was told to dump out the money from the register as well as from her purse, which had been sitting on the counter.
The employee said the men then departed and she called 911 as soon as they were out of sight.
As officers canvassed the surrounding area, witnesses stated they saw two males matching the descriptions of the suspects running towards a silver car parked on Adams Street with damage to the rear bumper and an unlatched trunk. The witnesses said the people inside the car then drove off at a high rate of speed. An additional witness then reported seeing the same vehicle stopped at a light near the scene, adding there were four occupants inside, including a woman behind the wheel.
At approximately 8:58 p.m., a Floodwood police officer reported sighting a silver 2009 Honda Civic matching the description of the suspects’ vehicle and carrying four occupants inside. While following the car south on Highway 73, the officer lost sight of it for a short time and then spotted a purse on the side of the road that was later determined to be the one reportedly taken from the employee at the Fig Tree. The officer continued to proceed along Highway 73 while waiting for backup, and a traffic stop of the suspects’ vehicle was made just north of Cromwell.
All four occupants of the vehicle were detained, read their Miranda rights and interviewed. During the course of the investigation, officers learned that all four allegedly had prior knowledge of the pending robbery and the intent to use a gun while committing it. Authorities also learned that Lakatos and Mathison waited in the car while Gause and Anderson donned masks and went inside the store with the gun to rob it. It was also discovered that Mathison had initially provided officers with a false name.
The four were then placed under arrest and their vehicle was impounded.
Later that same night, Minnesota State Conservation Officer Scott Staples of Carlton County and his detection dog, Schody, were called to the scene where the traffic stop had been made to search for the weapon used in the robbery. Staples said a lengthy search ensued but no gun was found.
Staples and Schody were unable to return to the scene until Monday, and this time Cloquet Police requested they search in the area where the purse was located alongside the roadway. Staples said the two of them searched up and down the ditches, but to no avail.
“It was really hot that day,” related Staples, “so I had to keep putting Schody into the car and giving him water to cool him down.”
In the meantime, five other law enforcement officers were continuing the search on foot in grass that was often waist-high. As they drifted further south in their efforts, Staples once again brought Schody out of the car to try one more time in the area where the purse was found. This time, he said, Schody demonstrated a marked change from his normal behavior, searching at a more rapid pace as his tail wagged faster — a sign that he was on to a scent.
Staples explained that Schody is trained to detect human scent on objects. After three days, he explained, it seemed unlikely that any would remain. It was then that Schody stopped dead in his tracks in a cluster of shrubs — and came up with the magazine of a gun in his mouth. The gun itself was then found nearby, and both were collected as evidence. Carlton County Attorney Thom Pertler said on Tuesday that he is still awaiting official confirmation as to whether the weapon found was the one used in the robbery.
Bail was set Monday at $8,500 for Gause, $8,000 for Anderson and $5,000 for both Mathison and Lakatos.
According to court records, Gause was convicted of second-degree burglary in St. Louis County on March 26, 2010, and was sentenced to 33 months in prison. He received a stayed sentence of five years and was ordered to complete five years of supervised probation, which he had twice violated at the time he was apprehended for last Friday’s robbery in Cloquet.