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Suspect in rash of video store robberies is arrested

CLEARWATER — Police have arrested a man they say is responsible for a string of video store stickups around North Pinellas.

Shermon Andrae Allen, 30, of 4708 Mill Pond Lane in Tampa, was booked into the Pinellas County Jail on five counts, including robbery with a deadly weapon, kidnapping and resisting arrest without violence.

Police said detectives received a tip about Allen after someone saw a surveillance photo from Tuesday's robbery of a Blockbuster video at 2045 Gulf-to-Bay Blvd.

On Thursday night, officers went to arrest Allen at the Countryside Lifestyles Fitness Center, where he works. He ran away, police said, and a police dog found him hiding under a mobile home in the nearby Regency Heights Mobile Home Park at 2550 State Road 580.

Mark Soderquist, 39, was taking a nap about 7:20 p.m. when his girlfriend, Carol Martin, 59, woke him up and told him police had surrounded their house.

Walking into the kitchen, Soderquist said he saw "two cops were on their bellies halfway under the mobile home,'' and Martin was hearing bumps coming from underneath the floor.

Soderquist said he was shocked that a man could fit in such a small space. Police didn't send in the dog. Soderquist said he thought "only a squirrel could get in.''

According to Soderquist, Allen burrowed "right underneath" his bedroom, removed bricks from the other side of the mobile home, ran through the yard, jumped a fence, sprinted under some power lines and dashed into the Misty Springs subdivision, where the dog took him down.

In the Clearwater robbery, police said Allen pulled a knife on the store manager as he was opening the store, handcuffed him, locked the business behind them, took him in the back and forced him to open the safe.

Because there was a time delay on the safe, Allen hid his victim in a back room and restroom so customers wouldn't see him, police said.

After he stole $5,200, Allen presented himself as an employee to approaching customers while his victim remained confined in the back, police said.

Investigators identified Allen through a palm print left on the safe handle and a photo, according to an arrest report.

Police said they believe Allen, who was being held without bail Friday, also was responsible for similar holdups at:

• Hollywood Video at 1477 Main St. in Dunedin on June 23.

• Blockbuster Video at 13819 Walsingham Road in Largo on June 26.

• Blockbuster Video at 300 E Lake Road in East Lake on July 5.

Suspect in rash of video store robberies is arrested 07/25/08 [Last modified: Friday, July 25, 2008 7:47pm]
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