When two masked, armed men rushed into a Western Avenue carryout Tuesday night, the clerk’s face might have been a familiar one.
Jaren Saffle, 27, has had the misfortune of twice being behind the counter at Stop & Go, 1409 Western Ave., when robbers burst into the store with their faces masked and their guns drawn. It first happened May 16 with less than a half hour until closing time, and again Tuesday at 11:29 p.m.
On Tuesday, when the men said they were there for robbery, Mr. Saffle drew a gun.
Simultaneously the clerk and one of the robbers fired at each other. No one was hit, police said.
The holdup men fled on foot without getting any money.
Mr. Saffle, when reached by phone, declined to comment.
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Toledo police are investigating whether the two incidents are related and if they have any connection to the string of carryout robberies that have plagued stores in the city’s south, north, and east side neighborhoods since May 5.
Wednesday, police released images of the robbers taken from surveillance video of the May 16 robbery.
The images are of the robbers from a distance and, because they are masked, their faces are not clearly visible, but investigators and carryout owners hope someone with information will come forward.
“We need the public’s help,” said Dan Ridi, owner of the Stop & Go chain and president of the Midwest Retailers Association. “It’s really madness. We have to put an end to it. I know Toledo police, for them this is a top priority. They’re doing the best they can to catch them, but hopefully someone will be able to identify those individuals.”
The retailers association, on Wednesday, also offered a $2,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of suspects.
Since May 5, 17 carryout stores have been robbed in Toledo. Most of them in South Toledo and the Old South End. Of these, 10 hold-ups have been committed by two men who are always masked and armed. A majority of the robberies have occurred between 9 p.m. and midnight.
The robberies seem to occur indiscriminately. Sometimes a single clerk is working and other times, such as Tuesday, multiple people were in the store.
The robbers also seem to be operating with gradually increased violent tendencies.
In several instances, clerks, who were all compliant with demands, and customers were assaulted. One clerk was pistol whipped, though the shooting on Tuesday was a first.
Mr. Ridi said he’s taken steps to ensure the safety of his employees, including ensuring parking lots are well lit and that security cameras are best positioned to catch criminals.
He said employees are not allowed to be armed inside stores. It is unclear whether Mr. Saffle will be in trouble for having a gun in the store Tuesday.
“We take safety of employees seriously,” Mr. Ridi said. “We take measures to make sure they are safe and if something happens, nothing is going to happen to them. We need those guys to get caught so things can go back to normal.”
Police ask that anyone with information about any of the robberies call the Crime Stopper program at 419-255-1111. Callers may remain anonymous and could be eligible for a reward.