‘Pot store’ bandits busted

Find out where police located the three suspected armed gunmen, after they’d robbed a marijuana dispensary in outer East Portland …

The Mt. Hood Wellness Center Dispensary, in the Hazelwood neighborhood, closed early for the evening – after three robbers, one with a handgun, held up the store.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Considering their merchandise is marijuana, and they deal only in cash, it’s a bit surprising more pot outlets aren’t targeted for armed robbery. Perhaps this is because, by law, the stores are well-secured.

But on August 3, at 7:16 p.m., four Portland Police Bureau (PPB) East Precinct officers were dispatched to an armed robbery call, and converged at the Mt. Hood Wellness Center Dispensary at 11121 SE Division Street.


  A police officer heads into the store, while others search the neighborhood for suspects.

An employee told officers that three African American males – one armed with a handgun – robbed the dispensary of cash, marijuana, and other undisclosed items.

“After the robbery, the suspects left the area in an unknown vehicle,” recounted PPB Public Information Officer Sgt. Pete Simpson.

“The suspect with the gun was described as an African American male in his 20s, 5’7″ tall, skinny build, clean shaven, with braided hair, and wearing a black hooded sweatshirt,” Simpson revealed. “The two other suspects were also African American males in their 20s, one in a blue hooded sweatshirt, and the other in a gray hooded sweatshirt.”

While officers and PPB Robbery Division detectives gathered evidence at the crime scene, including reviewing video surveillance images, the trio of suspected bandits made what they thought was a clean getaway.

It wasn’t as clean as they’d hoped.

It’s believed the suspects drove west on SE Division Street to the I-205 Freeway, headed north to the Banfield Freeway, I-84, then west to northbound I-5 – and likely exited on North Alberta Street heading east, toward Jefferson High School.

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Learning of the traffic stop in North Portland, the officer at the robbery scene provides information to when Gang Enforcement Team members.

The chase ended up near North Sumner Street and Kerby Avenue, near Jefferson High School, when Gang Enforcement Team officers attempted to stop the vehicle for a traffic infraction – as yet unaware that the occupants were suspects in an armed robbery. But guilty consciences gave the bandits away; they bolted.

“Two of the suspects were taken into custody shortly after running from the vehicle; the third was later located hiding in a crawl space after alert community members called 9-1-1,” Simpson said.

“In the vehicle, officers recovered an undisclosed sum of cash, marijuana, and other items linking the men to the robbery,” observed Simpson. “A handgun was also seized, after it was discovered along a wall outside Jefferson High School, by a community member.”
Robbery detectives ultimately determined that the three men, stopped 11 miles away from the pot store, were the suspects in that robbery.

20-year-old Vontrell M. Mills was apprehended running from the suspected getaway car. MCDC booking photo

20-year-old Vontrell M. Mills was booked in to the Multnomah County Detention Center (MCDC) at 4:25 a.m. the following morning, on one count of Robbery in the First Degree – and is being held in lieu of $250,000 bail.

Also quickly apprehended was 20-year-old Malik A. Stephens. MCDC booking photo

At 4:42 a.m. the following morning, 20-year-old Malik A. Stephens was booked into MCDC on one count of Robbery in the First Degree, and he is also being held in lieu of $250,000 bail.

Hiding in a crawl space didn’t help 23-year-old Jiante Fascan Carter escape the long arm of the law. MCDC booking photo

And, at 5:08 a.m. that morning, 23-year-old Jiante Fascan Carter was discovered hiding in a home’s crawl space, and was booked into MCDC on one count of Robbery in the First Degree, and he too is being held in lieu of $250,000 bail.

Far be it from us to suggest that there is a lesson in successful robbery to be learned from all this, but the accused bandits will have plenty of idle time in jail to reflect that, perhaps, it would be wise to observe all traffic laws when trying to making a clean getaway.

© 2016 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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