Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

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April 29, 2013

Citizen leads police to robbery suspect

Corsicana — A 21-year-old Corsicana man is being held on suspicious of two armed robberies Monday morning, and an alert citizen aided in his capture.

The first robbery attempt was at 11:04 a.m., when a white man wearing a mask and carrying a handgun went into the 45th Street Valero convenience store, the former Tiger’s Den, and attempted to hold it up. After forcing the clerk to open the safe, which was empty, the man left without any cash in a black pickup with tinted windows.

At 11:23 a.m., another call came into the police station that the MQ Food Mart/Chevron at 1900 North Beaton, had been held up at gunpoint.

“The owner called and said he’d been robbed,” explained Chief Randy Bratton. “Basically, it was the same description as the first one. He was wearing a mask and holding a gun. He got a plastic bag with U.S. currency in it and fled the scene.”

Mitchell Betts, 40, was a customer in the Chevron when the robber came in, buying a soda.

“It was right after I got through paying for my stuff when I saw this guy come in with a mask over his face,” Betts recalled. “He just pulled a gun on the store clerk. I’m less than arm’s length distance from him with that gun.”

Betts said he was close enough that he could see the rivets on the barrel of the gun when the young man demanded cash from the female clerk.

“I looked at him like ‘are you for real? Is this a joke?’ He says ‘This is for real. Give me your money.’ He was so calm, really calm.”

Once the clerk turned over the bag of money, the robber walked out of the store and got into a pickup which had the rear license plate removed.

Betts tried to take a photo with his cell phone, but when he realized there was no license tag, he got into his own car and followed, dialing 9-1-1 and describing the route they were taking.

Following the directions Betts gave them, three officers quickly spotted the suspect’s vehicle.

Det. Michael Dockery and Assistant Chief Ronnie McGaha were in separate unmarked cars and they saw the truck on Dobbins in front of Collins Middle School. They were headed from the west, and the suspect was headed east, Bratton said.

The suspect turned onto West Belclaire, and it was about that time that Officer Dan McAninch in a marked patrol car turned in front of the two unmarked police cars and executed a felony traffic stop on the suspect’s vehicle in the 2000 block of West Belclaire, Bratton said.

“The suspect immediately stopped. There was no pursuit, and he surrendered at gunpoint without further incident.”

The money was recovered, as was the firearm. The suspect is being held pending two charges of aggravated robbery.

“No one was hurt, and that’s the main thing,” Bratton said.

Betts was still jittery from adrenaline Monday afternoon, but he posted a few photos to Facebook and was talking to friends and family on the phone, assuring them he is fine.

Betts has lived in Corsicana all his life, and currently works in Dallas. This was his first time to be involved in an incident like this.

“My phone hasn’t stopped ringing,” he said. “Everybody’s calling me and asking me if I’m all right. I tell my family all the time, and I tell my kids this, too. Be grateful for life because one day it can all come to an end in an instant.

“I was nervous,” he said, adding that he did think of trying to seize the man’s gun, but he wasn’t sure if he’d have the help of the clerk or if anyone would get hurt. He followed the suspect because it was the right thing to do.

“Truthfully, I just wanted to catch the guy. I’m not a hero, I was just there at the right time. I would want somebody to do the same thing for me.”

The suspect remained jailed at press time Monday awaiting arraignment. The Daily Sun does not generally identify suspects arrested until they are arraigned.

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Janet Jacobs may be reached via e-mail at jjacobs@corsicanadailysun.com. Want to “sound off” to this article? E-mail: Soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com

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