Bingo bandits strike senior center

February 18, 2009 3:19:54 PM PST
Police in Delaware have arrested a 27-year-old Dagsboro man for a robbery during bingo at the Mamie A. Warren Senior Center in Smyrna Tuesday night. Police responded to the center, located at 1775 Wheatley's Pond Road, at approximately 9:25 p.m.

Reports told that two men had entered the building through an unsecured rear door and committed a robbery.

After gaining entry the suspects knocked a telephone off the wall, preventing 911 from being called. They then confronted the 75-year-old woman who was managing the money for approximately 60 active bingo players. One of the suspects grabbed the tray of money, which included approximately $1,200, as the bingo players observed the crime in progress.

In an attempt to prevent the suspect from leaving with the money, the elderly woman grabbed the culprit. The suspect then twisted the woman's arm and hit her in the head with his fist. She sustained a minor injury to her left arm.

Sarah Roberts and Mable Faulkner were sitting near a phone the bandits knocked over when they entered.

Both were counting the fundraising proceeds for the night.

"I called him a name. A son of you know what and I just grabbed him because we worked so hard," 75-year-old Mable said.

"I got up and I went over by the Bingo machine because I thought if they start shooting then I'm going to get undercover," 69-year-old Sarah said.

Today these longtime friends can laugh about the way Sarah took off, while 75- year-old Mable decided to put up a fight because when the bingo bandits took off, a room full of angry seniors ran behind them

"The time they got up here, we could have stopped him you know, but I couldn't hold him," Mable said.

The suspects then fled out the rear door of the business.

As they fled, a 49-year-old Newark man who was playing bingo, chased after the suspects - trying to maintain visual contact with the suspects until police arrived. As he pursued them, one of the suspects later identified as Katrial L. West, 27 of Dagsboro, grabbed a large stick, raised it in an aggressive manner towards the man and insinuated he was going to strike him if he continued to chase after them. The man stopped pursuing and the two suspects continued to flee on foot.

As the suspects were fleeing they dropped the cash tray and the center was able to recover $715.00 of the stolen money.

As police arrived and began searching for the suspects a 911 call was received from a resident in the 1800 block of Mt. Friendship Road. The resident said a man resembling West's description was banging on their door asking to use the telephone. A Clayton Police Officer who was assisting with the search was able to respond to the home, observed West, and after a short foot pursuit apprehended him without further incident.

Afterward, West was positively identified as one of the culprits in the robbery. The other suspect was not apprehended.

The second suspect is described as a black male, 5'06" to 5'08", average build, wearing a dark colored zip up jacket, dark pants and a dark colored knit cap with eye holes cut-outs.

West was charged with Robbery, Wearing a Disguise During the Commission of a Felony, Conspiracy, Offensive Touching and Menacing. He was remanded to the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in lieu of a $41,500 secured bail.

"I think this is indicative of just how desperate criminals have become," Sgt. Joshua Bushweller of the Delaware State Police said.

Despite their frightening experience, Mable and Sarah, the bingo buddies, vow to be at the next game night and Delaware State Police are betting it won't be long before they find the second robber.

Anyone with information on the identity of the other suspect is urged to call detectives at (302) 697-2104 or Crime Stoppers at 1 (800) TIP-3333.

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