UPDATED: Robbers chased from Manchester variety store, arrested on I-293 in Bedford
MANCHESTER — Two men suspected in the attempted armed robbery of a city variety store were arrested Sunday when they stopped to pay a toll on Interstate 293, police said.
The two men were arrested after police converged on the alleged getaway after the fleeing driver stopped in the cash-only lane at the Bedford tolls.
A 6-year-old girl and her 22-year-old mother were also in the car, but police said the woman has not been charged in the robbery.
Police said a gunman entered the Crosstown Variety store at 77 Bremer St. at about 11:15 a.m. on Sunday, flashed a gun and demanded money.
The clerk told a customer she was being robbed and asked her to call 911.
“The clerk had her doubts that the gun was real,” said Manchester Police Lt. Michael Hurley. “She refused to give him any money, and at that time the suspect lunged over the counter at her and the register two or three times to get the money, then left the store without any money.”
The suspect ran out the door and got into a Dodge Intrepid with Massachusetts plates, that had been parked two blocks away. The car took off, with a witness driving behind the vehicle. The witness followed the car onto Interstate 293 and continued to follow it southbound, providing Manchester police with updates on the car’s progress as it eventually traveled southbound onto the Everett Turnpike, Hurley said.
“The witness provided direction and a visual description of the car, which helped police quickly make their way to the area,” he said. “When the vehicle pulled over into the cash only lane of the Bedford toll booths to pay the toll, this helped law enforcement vehicles quickly make up time and distance. As soon as the vehicle was seen pulling away from the toll booths, Manchester and state police conducted a felony stop and arrested the two men at gunpoint.”
The gunman identified by police as Brian Cunneen, 22, of Lowell, Mass. Cunneen was charged with armed robbery.
The alleged driver, John Hickey, 27, of Lowell, Mass. was charged with criminal liability to armed robbery.
The names of the 22-year-old woman, also from Lowell, and her daughter were not released as police investigate to determine if the woman played any role in the robbery.
Hurley said police don’t know if the gun shown during the robbery was real.
“At this time we don’t have the weapon,” said Hurley. “The suspect was seen leaving the store with the gun and entering the vehicle. We have the vehicle impounded, and are in the process of obtaining a search warrant to go through it and look for the weapon.”
Hurley said while his department appreciates the efforts by both the clerk and the witness in Sunday’s robbery, police don’t recommend that citizens take action during a crime.
“Obviously we don’t recommend doing something like that, but this person’s instinct was to follow the individual,” he said. “There’s no way we would have been able to apprehend the suspects in the time frame we did without that help. As far as the clerk, most stores have a policy that they should just hand over the money, and we would recommend that as well. It’s usually just a small amount of cash, and it’s not worth risking your life over.”