ST. PETERSBURG — Two men nabbed after a Saturday night holdup have been charged with armed robbery, but police don't think the pair are responsible for stickups last week that left brothers shot days apart.
Police said Cory Jay Smith, 21, and Benjamin Roland Jones, 19, entered John's Variety Store at 208 Fourth St. N Saturday with their faces covered. The men produced a pellet gun that resembled a semiautomatic, police said.
Store owner John Silva said he thought he was staring at a .45-caliber gun. The men demanded cash. They ordered him to get down. Silva obliged, ducking under the counter and popping back up with a .380-caliber handgun he calls Betsy.
The men fled as Silva, trained for the merchant marine, squeezed off three rounds. Smith was stopped soon after near Central Avenue and Fifth Street; Jones was found hiding in Mirror Lake, where he got a minor bite from a police dog.
Neither of the men has a previous robbery arrest, though Jones is on probation for auto theft. Police detectives said both men admitted that the robbery occurred because they needed money.
On Sunday, police said they don't think Smith and Jones, both from St. Petersburg, are responsible for separate convenience store robberies last week where clerks, both brothers, were shot despite cooperating. Smith and Jones don't match the descriptions of the robbers in those incidents and used a different weapon, police said.
News that those gunmen were still at large disappointed Silva, 53. "That makes me even more nervous now," he said, "because those idiots aren't afraid to fire."
On Sunday afternoon, 46-year-old Indravadan Patel remained in intensive care at Bayfront Medical Center but is expected to recover, said his nephew Jay Patel, 27. He was shot in the stomach Wednesday night while two men robbed Suhani, a shop he named for his daughter, at 2539 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N.
A week ago, his brother Narendra Patel, 53, was shot three times after emptying the register for robbers at his Star Deli, 2451 Fifth Ave. N. He was released from the hospital Wednesday, shortly before his brother was shot, and is resting at home, family members said.
Police don't think that the culprits singled out the brothers, but think they were targeting convenience stores generally. In each case, the robbers got away with not much more than $100.
Will Van Sant can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4166.