OKANOGAN – An Omak man was charged Nov. 9 with robbing the Stampede Mini Mart and assaulting its clerk.
Stephen Vincent Vasquez, 33, was charged in Okanogan County Superior Court with first-degree robbery with a deadly weapon, second-degree assault with a deadly weapon and third-degree theft.
Okanogan County Sheriff Tony Hawley and Omak Police Chief Dan Christensen, in a joint announcement, praised their officers and said they worked together on the case, which involved several robberies.
As of Nov. 14, Vasquez was charged with the Stampede Mini Mart robbery only.
Because of “the increased frequency and accelerated propensity for violence, this investigation had all the resources of the sheriff’s office dedicated to solving it,” said Okanogan County Sheriff Tony Hawley.
A report by Omak Police Detective Brien Bowling accompanied the charging document as an affidavit of probable cause.
On Oct. 24, Omak Officer Dustin Silverthorn was dispatched to the store at 11:40 p.m. for a robbery. A man dressed in black - including a hooded coat, black gloves and a black face covering – had entered the store armed with a knife and a golf club, according to the report.
The clerk was ordered to open the cash register and stack the money on the counter. After the money was on the counter, the clerk was hit in the throat with the golf club handle and told not to tell anyone, the report said
Omak Police Chief Dan Christensen told The Chronicle the cashier did not require medical attention.
According to Bowling’s report, the suspect then left the store and headed east. Surveillance video, viewed later, showed a silver car stop in the area about a half-hour before the robbery.
According to Bowling’s report, the Jackpot Mini Mart was held up Nov. 4 by a man wearing the same clothing and carrying a knife and a pipe. Two days later, another robbery was reported – the report didn’t say where – by a suspect in the same clothing and using a knife.
Hawley and Christensen’s joint statement said the latter incident occurred Nov. 5 at the Omak 76 station. The attempted robbery was reported Nov. 6.
On Nov. 7, what police presume was the same suspect allegedly robbed the Okanogan Chevron station, according to Bowling’s report. Deputy Eric Orr responded and spotted a silver vehicle speed away from the area; he followed it to the area of Koala Avenue and Quince Street, Omak, where the male driver fled on foot, the report said.
The joint statement said officers and deputies cordoned off the area and sheriff’s Sgt. Tait Everett and K-9 Havoc attempted to track the suspect.
Police allegedly found in the vehicle, which was registered to Stephen V. Vasquez, a hat, coat, face mask and shoes matching the description of those worn in all three Omak robberies, according to the report.
A local man who had trained Vasquez in MMA fighting was shown video of the Stampede Mini Mart robbery and was able to identify the suspect, the report said.
On the evening of Nov. 9, a surveillance team from the Omak Police Department and the North Central Washington Narcotics Task Force executed a warrant at Vasquez’ home on East Grape Avenue, Omak, and he was taken into custody without incident, the joint statement said. He was booked into the Okanogan County Jail.
Hawley said he and Christensen made sure their teams were well staffed to deal with the danger to the community.
“The teamwork in this investigation was vital, as criminals do not respect jurisdictional boundaries so it was important for our law enforcement team to work together in the effort to provide public safety to our community,” said Hawley. “This was a great example of dedication to public safety by all law enforcement involved.”
Christensen commended the deputies and officers for putting in long hours on the case.
The team approach was “amazing to be part of and delivered some great success,” he said, crediting Bowling and sheriff’s Sgt. Terry Shrable with coordinating the investigation.
According to the charging document, the first-degree robbery charge is considered a “most serious offense” under the state’s three strikes law and carries a life sentence and/or $50,000 fine. Conviction of two most serious offenses on two separate occasions carries a mandatory penalty of life imprisonment without possibility of parole.
Second-degree assault carries a 10-year prison term and/or a $20,000 fine. Third-degree theft is a misdemeanor.
A nationwide arrest warrant was issued Nov. 9 for Vasquez, with extradition included.
During a preliminary appearance Nov. 10, bail was set at $50,000 and arraignment was set for 8:30 a.m. Nov. 22. Vasquez also was ordered to surrender all weapons and concealed weapons permit, if applicable, to the sheriff’s office.
The county’s contract public defender was appointed to represent Vasquez.
Four other cases have been opened against Vasquez.
In one, he’s suspected of first-degree robbery, second-degree theft, first-degree kidnapping, imprisonment, first-degree assault, attempting to elude, reckless driving and obstructing a law enforcement officer.
In a Nov. 10 preliminary hearing, bail was set at $250,000. A protection order was issued for the alleged victim and Vasquez was ordered to surrender any weapons he owns.
For a second case, bail was set at $100,000 and he was ordered to stay away from the Jackpot station. He heard anticipated charges of first-degree robbery, third-degree theft and second-degree assault.
Bail was set at $100,000 in a third case, and he was ordered to stay away from Stampede Mini Mart. He heard anticipated charges of first-degree robbery, second-degree theft and second-degree assault.
For the final case, bail was set at $50,000 and he was ordered to stay away from the Union 76 station. He heard an anticipated charge of attempted first-degree robbery.
Protection orders were issued in the latter three actions.
Meanwhile, Vasquez’ father, Stephen Vasquez Sr., 56, Omak, was charged Nov. 12 with first-degree rendering criminal assistance, making false or misleading statements to a public servant and obstructing a law enforcement officer.
He made a preliminary appearance Nov. 10, at which time bail was set at $5,000. Arraignment was set for 8:30 a.m. Nov. 22.
A report by Omak Officer Jerod Gavin accompanied the charges as a probable cause statement.
According to the report, he stopped Vasquez Sr. on Nov. 9 and asked about the younger Vasquez’ whereabouts. The elder Vasquez allegedly said his son was not at a home being watched by police and which the elder Vasquez had just left.
Two days earlier, Vasquez Sr. allegedly had filed a stolen vehicle report for a vehicle his son was suspected of driving and had abandoned, the report said. After running a registration check, it was determined the vehicle actually belonged to the son.
Also arrested on suspicion of rendering criminal assistance was Barbara Riley, 53, Moses Lake. No Superior Court case had been opened against her as of Nov. 14.