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Emily Welker and Archie Ingersoll, Forum staff writers, Published January 29 2014

Two men, one wielding hammer, rob south Fargo convenience store; city's third business robbery this year

FARGO – Two men, one apparently armed with a hammer, held up a convenience store early Wednesday in south Fargo, marking the city’s third business robbery this year.

The men, who had their faces covered, went into the Stop-N-Go at 1401 S. University Drive and demanded money, said Lt. Joel Vettel of the Fargo Police Department.

The store clerk told police one of the men was carrying a blunt object that appeared to be a hammer. The robbers took cash from the register and fled, Vettel said.

Officers were dispatched to the store about 2:15 a.m., and they searched the area without success. Investigators are reviewing surveillance video, Vettel said.

The man with the blunt object was described as 5-foot-11 to 6 feet tall and 250 to 260 pounds. He was black, and the other robber had a lighter complexion, stood 5-foot-8 to 5-foot-10 and weighed 160 to 175 pounds.

In an unusual twist, police arrested the store clerk because he had a warrant for his arrest on a felony charge of burglary in Colorado, Vettel said.

Wednesday’s holdup was the fourth business robbery this year in the metro area. Along with the three in Fargo, the Stop-N-Go at 524 Sheyenne St. in West Fargo was robbed Jan. 3.

In 2013, West Fargo experienced two armed robberies, both of which happened in the final quarter of the year, said West Fargo police Sgt. Gary Bommerbach. The city had just one robbery in 2012.

Police are concerned about a potential cluster pattern, with repeated robberies in the city to come. That’s a characteristic of robberies nationally as well as locally, officers said.

“Are we used to it around here? No. So right now, it’s a big deal,” Bommerbach said. “We have been working the stores.”

In Fargo, a late-year string of holdups pushed the 2013 count of business robberies to 12, the same total as 2012. The city’s five-year average is 11 per year, Vettel said.

Vettel expects 2013 statistics will show an increase in crime overall in the city, a trend the department identified back in April. However, he pointed out that the city enjoyed a drop in reported crimes over the preceding seven years.

Moorhead has seen no business robberies so far this year. In 2013, two were reported, said Moorhead police Lt. Tory Jacobson.

In Cass County, the Sheriff’s Department dealt with no business robberies in 2012, one in 2013, on Dec. 30, and one so far this year, said Cass County Sgt. Tara Morris. That was the holdup of Casey’s General Store on Jan. 14 in Horace, for which two people were taken into custody.

Clay County had no businesses reporting robberies over the past two years, department officials said, with only a handful of convenience stores that are not covered by municipal police departments in the county.

Readers can reach Forum reporters Emily Welker at (701) 241-5541 and Archie Ingersoll at (701) 451-5734