PARKLAND — Two armed men walked into a medical marijuana dispensary, put a gun in the clerk’s face, and stole cash and drugs. But they were caught on camera. Now detectives are hoping you can help catch them.
“It’s not a matter of if they get caught, it’s a matter of when,” says Tesa Zanotelli, the owner of 8th Wonder in Parkland.
She says the armed men knocked on the door Saturday night, when only one employee was working.
“He didn’t think anything of it so he went over and opened the door, not checking our security system. That’s when they put the gun in his face.”
In the surveillance video, the men are seen with masks over their faces, waving the gun at the employee on the floor. Zanotelli says they got away with a “considerable amount” of cash and marijuana.
“We knew it was probably a matter of time. Any dispensary knows it’s only a matter of time, because everyone knows it’s a cash-based business. We’re hoping to get to that point where it’s not that way, so we can not only protect ourselves but also protect the community.”
Investigators with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department admit they get a lot of calls about thefts of medical marijuana dispensaries and employees.
“Wherever there is cash, there’s going to be the criminal element,” says sheriff’s detective Ed Troyer. “And there’s a lot of it in this business, because the banking industry hasn’t caught up and the feds need to do something about that.”
The owners of Green Kings, another dispensary in Pierce County, say they hope the law changes, so they’re not such a target for thieves.
“There’s no insurances for these businesses, we’re not federally backed,” says Cheyenne Ogas. “So there’s not really anyone for us to turn to.”
After hearing about past robberies, she added security doors and surveillance systems to give her employees more protection.
“We also try to keep a low amount of money on hand, so we don’t have those types of problems,” says Amy Celletti.
Zanotelli hopes her employees will be safer if they work in teams from now on.
“We’re changing some of the things in the store itself to eliminate the blind spots, so this doesn’t happen again. Because I don’t want this to ever happen again.”
The first suspect is described as a black man in his 20s, 5-foot-10 and about 200 pounds. He was seen wearing a black hooded sweatshirt, black shorts, and a black doo-rag.
The second suspect is described as a black man in his 20s, 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds. He was seen wearing a red hooded sweatshirt, black pants, and carrying a black backpack.
If you can recognize them, call Crime Stoppers of Tacoma-Pierce County at 1-800-222-TIPS. All calls are anonymous and there is a cash reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to their arrest.