A suspect who turned small-time retail thefts into terrifying episodes by brandishing a large knife at store employees has been caught – and revealed to be a 16-year-old boy.
At 6:55 p.m. Wednesday, the boy and a 17-year-old girl were arrested for theft from Metcalfe’s Sentry Foods, 6700 W. State St., after police spotted their car and pulled them over. The boy's 2-year-old nephew was with them.
The three of them had entered Sentry together, and a manager noticed that the girl was carrying a large empty bag, which aroused his suspicions. As he watched, they went to the liquor department, where the boy began openly stuffing bottles of liquor into the girl's bag.
Several Sentry employees moved to bar their way as they headed for the door. The boy ran ahead, pulling the child along with him. The girl pushed past the employees, but a store loss-prevention officer managed to get the bag away from her, which contained eight bottles of liquor.
The three got into a white Chrysler Sebring and drove off, but employees got their license number, and a patrol officer quickly spotted them and pulled them over in the 6200 block of West North Avenue.
Both suspects gave false names and ages, and initially claimed they had not been to the Sentry at all. But soon the girl admitted the attempted theft.
Knife found inside familiar jacket
On the passenger seat, the officer found a two-tone brown jacket, and in it was wrapped a folding knife with a 3-inch blade. The boy was positively identified as the suspect in two earlier thefts, both from Walgreens stores, in which he had brandished that or another knife at employees. He had been wearing the same distinctive jacket in each case.
Upon further questioning, the boy admitted his involvement in thefts on Dec. 14 and 15 at two Wauwatosa Walgreens stores, including the use of a weapon.
In the first case, at the 10800 W. Capitol Dr. store, he had tried to steal a cell phone and got into an argument with a manager after she demanded it back. After recovering the phone, she was trying to get him to leave and gave him a slight push toward the door.
He shouted, "Don't you put your hands on me!" and pulled open his jacket, revealing a large knife in a sheath at his belt. He pulled the knife almost out of the sheath in a threatening manner before turning and leaving. Several people who had entered the store with him had left as soon as the boy was confronted about the phone.
In the Dec. 15 incident, at the 6600 W. State St. Walgreens, the boy had entered with a girl or young woman – possibly the same one as apprehended Wednesday – and she stole one bottle of liquor and ran.
Two store managers followed her into the parking lot, but then decided to give up the chase and turned around. The boy was behind them. He pulled a large military or hunting knife, they said, and began waving it menacingly at them as he moved around them to rejoin his accomplice.
After that episode, he was briefly seen in the Sentry store vestibule, and a manager there noticed that he had a sheathed knife at his waist. He was going to report him to police, but the boy quickly left and disappeared.
Boy returns to same store he tried to steal from
Finally, on Monday, a clerk at the Capitol Drive Walgreens reported that the boy had been back in the store. She told police other staff recognized him and warned her, and that she had approached him to get a look. She immediately recognized him from photos taken from the robbery incident, she said.
She said she asked if she could help him find something, but he ignored her and then left. He got into what she described as a gold Toyota Camry sedan that she thought was about a 2004 model.
As mentioned, every witness in every case noted the same two-toned jacket, with a tan shell and darker brown sleeves with elbow patches.
Once positively identified, the boy was found to have an outstanding warrant through the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office, and based on that, the multiple thefts and threats with a weapon, he was taken to the Milwaukee County Juvenile Detention Center. All three cases will be referred for charging.
The girl said she had recently left a Green Bay group home and come down to Milwaukee, where she had taken up with the boy in stealing. She was found to be listed as missing from the group home. She was cited for the theft and turned over to Milwaukee Child Welfare for disposition.