Stills of the suspect

Stills of the suspect in the Thursday morning robbery of the Alta convenience store, 938 S. Townsend Ave. 

A clerk working at the Alta gas station was left unharmed, but shaken, after an armed man confronted him early Thursday, demanded money from the register, and fled on foot. The incident is the latest in what police see as a disturbing crime trend in the Montrose area.

“He said he was definitely afraid, but OK overall,” Montrose Police Cmdr. Matt Smith said, of the clerk.

The clerk was alone at the store, located at 938 S. Townsend Ave., when the male suspect approached. He was dressed all in black, except for a multi-colored bandana that hid most of his face. He’s said to have threatened the clerk, although in interests of the investigation, the police are not for now revealing what was said, according to Smith.

The man fled on foot, reportedly with an undisclosed amount of cash. Smith said it appears the suspect went behind the store, possibly in a southwesterly direction.

Police responded to the store at 2:21 a.m. Thursday, but were not able to locate a person matching the provided description. They have obtained footage from cameras, as well as still photographs of the suspect.

People with information about the case should call dispatch at 970-249-9110 or Montrose Regional Crime Stoppers to make an anonymous report, at 970-249-8500 (mobile app P3Tips).

Thursday’s incident is alarming, the police said.

“Anytime somebody comes into a business and is armed (with criminal intent), there is a huge potential for risk, not only for that person, but for the clerk, for us, for the public,” Smith said.

“It’s a huge safety risk. It’s a very brazen crime, just by its very nature. … To walk into a business and be armed with the idea of some kind of criminal act is very concerning for us. It adds another type of extreme public safety risk.”

Thursday’s robbery is the second time in about a year that an armed person targeted a fueling station. Last September, a man with a pellet gun held up Stinker’s gas station, just up Townsend from Alta. The man was quickly captured and is now in prison.

Other robberies have also been reported this year. In March, police said, a woman was attacked from behind and injured while outside of her home near South First and Selig Streets, by an individual who took off with her purse.

Also in March, a man reportedly attempted to rob another man as that individual walked on East Main Street near Junction Avenue, then chased him with what appeared to be a butcher knife.

Smith said there are no updates on the March robberies, but there is no reason right now to suspect they are connected to Thursday’s.

The latest robbery occurred just days after a drive-by shooting on U.S. 50 near Olathe on Tuesday night. The Montrose County Sheriff’s Office is investigating that case, in which a woman whose car was struck by gunfire was cut by flying glass.

Smith said although the shooting case is separate from the robbery case, two significant crimes occurring in rapid succession is a matter of public concern.

“This is something that’s a pattern to us. These are the kinds of crimes that never used to happen very often,” although they are always serious regardless their frequency, he said.

“Now it seems incidents like these are extreme public safety risks are happening more frequently. There is no way to anticipate when violent acts like this are going to occur,” Smith said.

Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.

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