A teenage boy has been arrested in the armed robbery Sunday evening of the Speedway gas station on North Avenue in East Tosa in which cash from a register and from a children's charity jar were stolen, according to Wauwatosa police.
Based on a tip from a caller who recognized the boy, who is thought to be 16 years old, officers found and arrested him Friday and said that after questioning, he admitted his part in the crime and implicated an accomplice. The accomplice had not been located.
The boy has already been positively identified in photo lineups by close witnesses, a Wauwatosa police spokesman said.
"All this has just been in the last couple of hours," said Lt. Gerald Witkowski of the Wauwatosa Police Department just before 6 p.m Friday. "An individual has been arrested on suspicion of armed robbery. He's either 15 or 16 years old – I believe 16. He's being conveyed to the juvenile detention center.
"We're actively looking for the accomplice."
The gas station, at 6804 W. North Ave., was robbed at 5:30 p.m. Sunday by two subjects, one of them with a pistol, police reports said. The gunman forced an attendant to kneel behind the checkout counter while he rifled the cash drawer and his accomplice grabbed cigarettes and cigars.
Before they left, the gunman grabbed the Children's Miracle Network donation jar off the counter and carried it away, too.
After the robbery story was first published Monday by Wauwatosa Patch, a number of local television stations requested any security photos or video from the robbery. The Wauwatosa police decided to release an unusually clear surveillance photo, and Patch and several broadcast outlets published it.
"I can say that (the tip) did come from media releases," Witkowski said. "An individual recognized the one in the picture, and he was identified by the witnesses from photo arrays."
Witkowski said that during questioning, the teenager refused to cooperate, but after a short time in a holding cell, "he knocked on the glass and said he was ready to talk. He admitted his part and implicated his accomplice."
Police had no information to release about the youth's alleged accomplice. The crime was committed at a time when the gas station was busy and traffic was high, and many people reported the crime in progress.
One man entered the station's storefront during the robbery; he retreated and asked a neighbor to call police. A woman was pulling in to buy gas and recognized that a robbery was taking place; she pulled around the pumps and asked another motorist to call police. Another man was just pulling in and saw what was taking place; he pulled away and called police.
The attendant, who saw him most clearly, described the gun-wielding suspect as having a round, chubby face almost like "a cabbage-patch kid."
Fifth District Ald. Bobby Pantuso, learning of the arrest, said, "More and more, I think that bad guys are realizing there are too many eyes on the street in East Tosa. It's not a very good environment to commit a crime and get away with it."