Teens use 'mob theft' to rob St. Paul store

  • Article by: CHAO XIONG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 22, 2011 - 8:04 PM

Dozens of youths stole junk food and juice from a Holiday gas station. Shooting of two men may be related.

About 30 to 40 youths dashed into a Holiday gas station on St. Paul's West Side Saturday night, snatched up dozens of juice bottles, candy, chips and other junk food and took off without paying. Minutes later, two men were shot less than a mile away.

It's unclear whether the incidents are linked, but St. Paul police are investigating the possibility, said police spokesman Andy Skoogman.

The escapade began when Metro Transit police asked St. Paul police for help about 8:45 p.m. with a large group of disorderly youths downtown at E. 5th and N. Minnesota streets. Several youths boarded city buses, and some started walking toward the West Side.

According to police: An employee at the Holiday station at 200 S. Wabasha St. called police about 9:40 p.m. about the robbery. The youths fled in all directions, some in groups of eight or 10.

Police got another call about 10 p.m. that a large group of people were arguing at Clinton Avenue and Congress Street, less than a mile away, and that three or four shots had been fired.

Minutes later, police learned that the two shooting victims had arrived separately at Regions Hospital. An 18-year-old man was shot in the left leg and a 21-year-old man was shot in the right shoulder. They had injuries that were not life-threatening and have since been released, Skoogman said.

The shooting victims have been uncooperative with police, and denied being a part of the Holiday robbery, Skoogman said. They also declined to provide suspect information.

The shooting could be gang-related, Skoogman said.

Police responding to the Holiday robbery ticketed about 20 juveniles for curfew violations.

Skoogman said that the "mob theft" tactic has been seen in other parts of the country, and at least one other time in St. Paul last fall.

"Far from a trend, but concerning," Skoogman said. "From our two cases, it's a quick hit. They run in quickly, grab things and run out."

In September, about 20 juveniles shoplifted at a BP convenience store on Lexington Parkway as a cashier was punched in the face several times. Police used surveillance video from the store to charge several teenagers with offenses from first-degree aggravated robbery to third-degree riot to theft.

Skoogman said police are reviewing video surveillance from the Holiday incident to identify juveniles who stole from the store. No one was injured or threatened in the Holiday case.

The two cases are not related, Skoogman said.

Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708

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