By Bob Uphues
A man wearing an N95-type mask who appeared to be simply practicing social distancing while waiting to make a purchase inside a Riverside convenience store on April 21 at about 9:25 p.m. turned out to be an armed robber, according to police.
When it was his turn to approach the cash register inside the 7-Eleven at 2600 Harlem Ave., the man reportedly pulled a black handgun from his waistband, pointed it at the clerk, ordered customers to lie on the ground and demanded money from the register.
A 911 caller told police that the offender was still inside the store, holding the clerk at gunpoint, but when police arrived within two minutes the offender had fled the scene. North Riverside's K-9 unit was able to track the scent of the offender to Longcommon and Berkeley roads, but lost the scent there.
No one was injured during the robbery, and the offender reportedly made off with an undisclosed amount of cash.
Surveillance cameras were able to capture the robbery and images of the offender as he entered the store. Those images show the alleged offender to be a black man, about 5-foot-8, wearing a black skull cap, white face mask, a green jacket with a black collar and blue jeans.
Police Chief Thomas Weitzel said the offender exploited the COVID-19 pandemic in robbing the store.
"There was no dispute that this offender took advantage of the nationwide pandemic," Weitzel said in a press release. "He purposely used an N95-type mask, practiced social distancing, confirmed by the other customers in the store, and then when it was his turn to pay for the items, he pulled a handgun and robbed the establishment."
Riverside police are asking for the public's help in identifying the offender. Anyone with information can contact police at 708-447-2127. Tips can left anonymously.