A man in a skeleton mask robbed two Merced County gas stations at gunpoint early Monday morning.
“The information we have is that these two robberies were probably committed by the same person,” Atwater police Sgt. Dick Wisdom said.
Three robberies were reported between midnight and 4 a.m. in Merced County. It was not clear if a robbery just before 4 a.m. in Los Banos was committed by the same man, but the suspect’s description was similar to that given in the first two incidents, investigators acknowledged.
Five robberies and an attempted robbery have been reported since Friday in Merced County.
About 12:18 a.m. Monday, a Chevron station on West Highway 140 near Gustine was robbed at gunpoint, the Merced County Sheriff’s Department confirmed.
Deputy Delray Shelton said the man took cash and five cartons of cigarettes.
The Sheriff’s Department described the suspect as a dark-skinned Latino man about 5 feet, 7 inches tall, weighing about 165 pounds, with brown eyes. The clerk told investigators the robber wore a skeleton face mask, a blue beanie-style hat, a blue hooded sweatshirt and jeans.
No injuries were reported.
About 3:02 a.m. Monday, a man wearing a skeleton mask and a black hooded sweatshirt pointed a silver and black semi-automatic handgun at a clerk inside the AM/PM Mini Mart on Bell Lane in Atwater, police said.
“The suspect demanded money from the register and made off with approximately $200,” Lt. Sam Joseph said in a statement.
No shots were fired and no injuries were reported.
“The descriptions are similar and it appears that it was the same guy in both cases,” Wisdom said.
Although the clothing description was nearly identical in both robberies, the Atwater clerk described the robber as a white man.
Atwater police described the man as in his 20s, about 5-foot-8 to 5-foot-10 and weighing about 160 to 170 pounds. He was wearing a skeleton mask, black hooded sweatshirt, black skinny-style jeans and black tennis shoes, police said.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Atwater Police Department at (209) 357-6394. Callers may remain anonymous.
Less than an hour later, about 3:51 a.m., Los Banos police responded to a convenience store robbery in the 400 block of North Mercey Springs Road. A man wearing a black hooded sweatshirt, black skinny-style jeans, black gloves and shoes robbed the store at gunpoint, making off with an undisclosed amount of money.
The man concealed his face under a black bandana, police said.
Los Banos police released a surveillance video photo of the incident.
“We’re going to be in contact with the other investigating agencies and we’ll compare any similarities to determine whether it is the same suspect,” Los Banos police Cmdr. Ray Reyna told the Sun-Star.
Los Banos police reported two more armed convenience store robberies and two strong-arm robberies Friday.
“We are certainly looking into the possibility that some of these weekend cases may be related, but, at this point, it’s too early to be sure,” Reyna said.
Two more robberies were reported simultaneously at 8:32 p.m. Friday in Los Banos, police said.
A 24-year-old man was robbed at gunpoint by two male juveniles wearing light-colored sweatshirts. They took an undisclosed amount of cash and fled on foot. The victim was not hurt, police said.
At the same time, a man wearing gray pants and a gray sweatshirt entered a convenience store in the 800 block of West Pacheco Boulevard and robbed the clerk at gunpoint, police said.
Later that same night, about 11:34, a 32-year-old man suffered several head lacerations when he was attacked with a knife while trying to break up another strong-arm robbery in the 1000 block of Mercey Springs Road, police said.
The victim spotted another man running from two Latino men, one armed with knife. The suspects attacked him and left the area without any money. They were seen driving a maroon or dark-colored pickup truck, police said.
Police described the victim’s injuries as “minor” and said he refused medical treatment at the scene.
Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to contact Detective Justin Melden at (209) 827-7070, ext. 114.
To leave an anonymous crime tip call (209) 827-7070, ext. 288. You can also leave an anonymous tip at the Police Department’s website at www.losbanos.org. At the bottom of the “Contact” page, click on the “report graffiti and other crime” link; or call the Merced Area Crime Stoppers at (855) 725-2420, or go to www.mercedareacrimestoppers.org.