ARLINGTON, MASSACHUSETTS -- A daring daylight robber got a little more than he bargained for Tuesday afternoon when a local pharmacy owner met his demands by pulling out a gun and firing.
The alleged suspect, Brian Rowe was not hurt by the warning shots, but he came out of Maida pharmacy empty-handed and was apprehended by police along with an accomplice just 10 minutes later.
Rowe allegedly entered the family-owned Maida pharmacy at 3:45 Tuesday afternoon and immediately ordered five customers inside the pharmacy to " get on the floor, " according to Arlington Police Services Captain Richard Kennefick.
But store owner Larry Maida Sr. pulled out a small handgun, which police say he is licensed to carry, and fired two shots into the ceiling , Kennefick said.
Clearly visible at the pharmacy in a fluorescent fixture was a small hole where one bullet pierced the light. Another bullet struck the ceiling.
Rowe, 28, of 6 Harrington Terrace, Cambridge, and John Valmanuto, 35, of 6 Wheaton Road were arrested by police about 10 minutes after Rowe ran out of the pharmacy. The two fled in an older black Cadillac DeVille four-door sedan driven by Valmanuto. The vehicle was impounded by police.
Officers found shell casings inside the vehicle, but have not yet determined if those casings came from a flare gun or a shotgun. Nor did they find the orange flare gun.
Maida, visibly angry after the attempted robbery, declined comment.
Kennefick said Rowe and Valmanuto face a single charge of armed assault with intent to rob and six charges of assault by means of a dangerous weapon. They were arraigned in Cambridge District Court yesterday on $2,500 cash bail each.
Larry Maida, Jr. and an unidentified teenage employee went to the police station and identified the two alleged assailants.
Valmanuto is being held without bail; Rowe faces $100,000 cash bail.
Police are unsure at this time whether Rowe was after Oxycontin, the potent synthetic opiate that has garnered a reputation as a powerful and expensive street drug.
" In all honesty, everything happened too quickly, " Kennefick said, " but it’s being looked at. " Rowe never even got a chance to ask for anything, drugs or otherwise, before Maida fired the gun, he said.
Drug users crush the Oxycontin into a powder, breaking down the time-release mechanism inside. So instead of feeling gradual pain relief, the user feels a quick and potent high.
Director of Police Services Fred Ryan, who is on vacation this week, said the drug is getting $1 per milligram. The average pill contains 40 to 80 milligrams of the drug.
That lucrative market has prompted a string of pharmacy robberies, many targeting small, independently owned businesses. The Stop-n-Shop pharmacy (formerly the Brattle pharmacy) got hit by thieves on May 7.
Kennefick said police believe so far that the two robberies are unconnected.
Owners Larry Maida and Larry Maida, Jr. had placed a sign at their pharmacy window saying that they would only order Oxycontin on an as-needed basis.
East Arlington resident Rita Muller was in the store when Rowe allegedly entered.
" There was just one man in a gray mask. It was obvious his gun wasn’t real, because it was orange. He told everybody that he had a flare gun, " she said.
Kennefick said the suspect had actually pulled a gray tee-shirt over his head. He was also wearing a baseball cap. He entered the store and " ordered the patrons to the floor. "
" I was in the back of the store, " said East Arlington resident Charles Riley. He said the suspect told customers, ‘this is a holdup,’
After the senior Maida fired shots, Rowe and Valmanuto allegedly got into the Cadillac and headed down Windsor Street. Police spotted the car on Gardner Street and gave chase, eventually stopping the car at the corner of Sunnyside Avenue and Broadway.
A probable cause hearing is scheduled for Oct. 1.
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