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“Incense Bandit” wanted in commercial robbery series

Posted: February 17th, 2012 | Hillcrest, North Park |

By Ashley Mackin | SDUN Editor

Fifth Avenue Books, along with Crime Stoppers, is offering a total cash reward of $3,000 for information leading to the capture of the man police dub “the incense bandit.”

Over three months, the incense bandit robbed at least four businesses in North Park and Hillcrest.

A press release by San Diego Police outlined details of two of those robberies.

As stated in the release, on Dec. 16, 2011 at approximately 7:15 p.m., a male entered the Lady of the Lake bookstore at 3100 University Ave. through an unlocked rear door. The clerk recognized him as a previous customer and told him the business was closed. The suspect announced he was robbing the store and displayed a small handgun. The suspect ordered the clerk to open the safe and give him the cash from inside. The clerk complied and the suspect left.

A separate incident took place on Jan. 7 at approximately 7:20 p.m. The suspect entered the Cathedral Candle shop at 400 University Ave. and browsed the store. The clerk asked if she could help him and the suspect asked about purchasing incense. The suspect then reached under his shirt, as if reaching for a gun. He pushed the clerk toward the cash register, told her to give him money and she complied. He asked about a safe but the business didn’t have one.

Police previously thought this suspect was also involved in the robbery of a 76 Gas Station in Hillcrest on Jan. 6. It has since been determined there is a separate suspect being pursued in this incident.

Robert Schrader, owner of Fifth Avenue Books in Hillcrest, said the incense bandit also robbed him. Schrader is contributing $2,000 to the reward for information leading to the bandit’s capture.

“He came in [and] pretended to have a gun,” Scrader said. “[He] threatened to hurt my employee and the employee quite reasonably gave him the money. He always waits until there are very few people around, [and] he’ll go after somebody who is elderly or small,” Schrader said.

“In my opinion the man is a complete coward,” Schrader added.

Regarding the reward, Schrader said, “I want to see the guy caught.” He added, “When I first moved to Hillcrest, it was a relatively safe neighborhood and, with one or two exceptions, it has been and I intend to keep it that way.”

The suspect is described as an African-American male, 38 to 45 years of age, between six feet and six-feet-five-inches tall with a medium to muscular build. He is described as being bald or having short hair. He was also described as having a mustache, possibly a goatee. He has been armed with a small revolver or a simulated weapon during the robberies.

In response to these and other crimes in the area, the Hillcrest Business Association will focus their next Open House on public safety. The Open House will be at Luna Grill, located at 350 University Ave., on Feb. 29, from 5:30 – 7 p.m.

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