By Brandi Makuski
Three young men face armed robbery charges following a Friday night of car theft, shoplifting and a stickup job.
A 911 caller reported two masked men entered The Store gas station in Rosholt, located at 425 Grand Ave. West, brandishing handguns at about 9:50 PM on Nov. 18. They escaped with an unspecified amount of cash and cigarettes, fleeing west on Hwy. 66 in a white SUV.
While responding to the scene, deputies passed a vehicle matching that description and travelling at nearly 100 miles an hour. Just as deputies turned around to pursue the vehicle, the 17-year-old driver, later identified as Randall Lehman, Jr.. turned off the vehicle’s lights before turning north on County Hwy. Y in an effort to evade law enforcement.
Following that turn, the vehicle crashed “due to their excessive speed”, a news release from the sheriff’s office reads in part. Uninjured, the three then fled on foot.
According to Chief Deputy Dan Kontos, a female Stevens Point police officer was nearby, on the lookout for the suspect vehicle, and witnessed the crash. She reportedly observed the three leave the vehicle, and when additional officers arrived helped organize a search of the area.
“At that time the officers thought [the suspects] were armed, so they were cautious,” Kontos said, adding with the help of city police, the Stevens Point Fire Dept., a K-9 unit from Wausau, and the Wisconsin State Patrol, deputies established a perimeter and searched through the night, but couldn’t locate the suspects at that time.
A search of the SUV, which had been reported stolen earlier that day, uncovered a pair of BB guns, later determined to have been used by two of the young men, ages 15 and 16, in the robbery.
“Based on several leads, detectives worked throughout the weekend,” Kontos said, “and the two individuals who actually conducted the robbery were the 15-year-old and 16-year-old, both of whom were from Stevens Point.”
Kontos said the two were taken into custody on Nov. 21 without incident, and are both being held in the Portage Co. Juvenile Detention Center on charges of armed robbery, attempted robbery, operating a motor vehicle without owner’s consent, damage to property, resisting an officer and theft.
Due to their ages, their names are currently being withheld.
Lehman, also a resident of Stevens Point, was also taken into custody and is currently behind bars at the Portage Co. Jail. He faces charges of armed robbery, attempted robbery, operating a motor vehicle without owner’s consent, damage to property, resisting an officer and theft.
Kontos said earlier that evening, the three went “car shopping” — a euphemism for stealing cars — when they found the SUV, unattended and with the keys still inside, and stole the vehicle. Initially, the trio intended to rob the gas station using a knife, but “chickened out at the last minute”, he said.
Sometime later, the group shoplifted BB guns from a local retail store, then returned to the gas station and went through with the robbery.
Kontos said no other individuals are believed to have been involved, and no one was injured during the robbery or subsequent crash.
Court dates for the three have no yet been scheduled. More as we have it.