It has been over a week since the last robbery in the West Kootenay after a spate of armed robberies in Castlegar and Salmo over the last six months left banks and businesses looking over their shoulders and the RCMP on alert.
But the brief respite from the holdups doesn’t mean anyone is ready to relax yet.
“We’re still working, following leads and making some progress,” said Corporal Kent Drover, of the RCMP’s General Investigation Section (GIS). “This is going to take some time.
“We’ve been getting lots of tips from the public after the screen shots of the suspect went out after the three robberies,” said Drover. “It has helped us eliminate some possible suspects but at this point it hasn’t lead to a positive identification of the person responsible.”
The string of robberies began last November when a single male suspect robbed the Paragon Pharmacy in Castlegar at gunpoint, escaping with cash and prescription drugs, it was
followed by the holdup of the Salmo branch of the Kootenay Savings Credit Union (KSCU) in February of this year and two more incidents in Castlegar with the robbery of Johnny’s Groceries and Gas in Robson in early March and the downtown Castlegar branch of KSCU last week.
There are similarities in the description of the suspect in each case but nothing conclusive enough for the RCMP to determine whether or not it is the same individual committing the crimes.
Last Friday a suspect was taken into custody in Kelowna who is believed to be responsible for a series of robberies in that area. The individual is of a similar age to the suspect in the West Kootenay thefts but RCMP aren’t currently linking the Okanagan holdups and recent events in the West Kootenay.
“We’re not making any connections at this time,” said Drover. “They had been experiencing some robberies in the Okanagan but there were some different circumstances there.”
With regards to the West Kootenay robberies, Drover said that the RCMP have been in regular contact with local banks and businesses, encouraging them to remain vigilant and that the public’s contribution has been of benefit to the ongoing investigation.
In the most recent Castlegar KCSU robbery the suspect escaped with an undisclosed amount of U.S. cash but at this point the RCMP don’t feel that is a significant detail.
“We don’t believe he was intending to cross the border but we have let institutions know to watch for someone exchanging larger amounts of money,” Drover said. “Banks often handle U.S. cash, for Americans travelling here or Canadians travelling to the U.S. It’s not really unusual he was probably just grabbing what was available at the time.”
For now, the RCMP will continue to follow the leads which have already arisen in the case and are encouraging any member of the public who see anything suspicious to report to their local RCMP detachment.