By Darrell Todd Maurina
By Darrell Todd Maurina
CNJ STAFF WRITER
As patrons came into the North Plains Cinema on Thursday evening to watch Terminator 3, many didn’t know that a real-life action story had played out the previous night.
For the second time in nine days, armed robbers hit the theater and stole money from the ticket counter clerk. Curry County Crime Stoppers are offering up to a $1,000 reward for information leading to the robbers’ arrest and/or conviction.
Police said at least five armed robberies have occurred in Clovis since June 14. Evidence suggests the robberies are being committed by the same men.
According to police reports, two Hispanic males in their late teens or early 20s with shirts over their faces came into the theater lobby on Wednesday night. They ordered everyone to get down on the ground and demanded money. After the clerk placed the money on the counter, the robbers — one of whom had a handgun — fled the theater and left the area in a vehicle. The clerk identified the two as the same men who robbed him last week.
A suspect van identified by witnesses was pulled over later in the evening, but police determined the van was unrelated to the armed robbery.
Police are not releasing the amount stolen Wednesday night. In a June 24 robbery, robbers took $625 — the most reported stolen since the string of robberies began.
Chris Smith, who moved to Clovis in April, said he did not know about the two theater robberies, but said he will continue to patronize the theater.
“If you let them put fear into you, it’s like they’ve already stolen a piece of your freedom to do what you want to do,” Smith said as he waited for Terminator 3 to start on Thursday.
Clovis Police Chief Bill Carey said his officers are working hard on the case.
“They’ve used guns and made threats in the past, but my concern is there were people in the lobby (on Wednesday),” Carey said. “We are going to put concerted effort into this case as well as (however) much manpower is needed to apprehend these two individuals.”
Carey said he does not know how many people were in the lobby at the time of robbery.
Carey said solving the case requires community cooperation.
“Anything they see that is suspicious or not right, they’ve got to give us a call,” Carey said. “Any cars in the neighborhood that don’t belong, give us a call as soon as possible.”
City Manager Ray Mondragon remembers a recent Clovis crime spree when he was still police chief. Two teenagers robbed elderly people and pizza delivery men for three months until they were caught in January of 2001 after six armed robberies.
Mondragon personally apprehended one of the subjects after a high-speed police chase; the subjects got 32 years in the state penitentiary, and Mondragon said he wants to see those responsible for the new crime spree follow the previous robbers into prison.
“Rest assured that I have communicated to the police department and the staff that they have all available resources they need,” Mondragon said. “Overtime is not an issue. The important thing is we need to catch these thugs and put them where they belong.”