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Stakeout nabs suspects

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By Janice Gregorson

gregor@postbulletin.com

A random stakeout by police and sheriff's deputies paid off Tuesday night when they saw two men rob a southeast Rochester motel at gunpoint.

Police Lt. John O'Neil said this morning that the two men were arrested following a brief foot chase outside the Rochester Inn at 1837 S. Broadway about 9 p.m.

Authorities are investigating whether the two men, both 23 and both of Rochester, are responsible for a string of other armed robberies in the area.

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One of the men arrested was charged just days ago with robbing a man who had given him a ride to a northwest city apartment complex. The suspect posted bail to be released from jail.

A joint Rochester and Olmsted County task force was formed to investigate the recent rash of armed robberies, most of which occurred at service station convenience stores and fast-food restaurants. Plainclothes officers have done random stakeouts at potential targets for weeks, hoping to catch the suspects.

"It was pure luck," O'Neil said of the officers staking out the motel Tuesday night. He said officers witnessed the two men enter the motel, point a handgun at the 31-year-old clerk, then flee out a back door. Officers chased the suspects on foot, caught them and recovered about $190 in cash and a black BB gun. Two sheriff's deputies and two narcotics officers were working the stakeout Tuesday night. O'Neil said the motel clerk was "shaken but not injured."

O'Neil and Capt. Joe Loftus of the Olmsted County Sheriff's Department said the suspects' car was seized and will be searched for other evidence. Officers also will be comparing surveillance videotape from previous robberies for a connection.

"We don't know if we have more people involved in these robberies," O'Neil said.

Tuesday's armed robbery was the fifth since Friday and the latest in a string of robberies that have kept law enforcement officers busy in both the city and county. Most of the robberies have been in Rochester, but some have occurred in Marion Township, Chester and Stewartville. There also have been robberies of several individuals and a couple of pizza delivery workers.

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