WSP police arrest suspect in pharmacy robberies


West St. Paul Police used a snow bank like this one near Walgreens at 1133 Robert St. to pin a fleeing robbery suspect’s vehicle, avoiding a high-speed chase on icy roads. (Luke Reiter/Review)

A Minneapolis man suspected of robbing three West St. Paul pharmacies in the past week is under arrest thanks to a quick-thinking officer and a nearby snow bank.

Jason Lee Arden, 38, was arrested Jan. 14 after allegedly robbing a Walgreens pharmacy at gunpoint on the 1100 block of Robert St. Arden made it to his car, but his getaway was foiled when an officer arriving on the scene veered his squad car into Arden’s vehicle, pinning it against a pile of recently-plowed snow. The officer then drew his firearm and instructed Arden to remain in his vehicle. When backup arrived, Arden was taken into custody.

Arden is also the prime suspect in two other pharmacy robberies:

• at Target at 1750 Robert St., Jan. 9 and

• at CVS Pharmacy, at 1471 Robert St., on Jan. 10.

Jason Lee Arden

In all three instances, the robber wore a black ski mask, brandished a pistol and demanded prescription narcotics. After the Target robbery, police and Dakota County Sheriff’s deputies formed a perimeter and locked down the store in the hopes of containing the suspect’s escape, but were unsuccessful.

On the corner of Robert and panic, witnesses are calm and observant

West St. Paul Lt. Brian Sturgeon praised shoppers on hand at the time of the Walgreens robbery, saying the immediate flood of 911 calls was critical in giving police the opportunity to apprehend Arden.

“We had a lot of good witnesses at Walgreens,” Sturgeon said. “Even if we did not catch him, we would have obtained a lot of good information from the witnesses there.”

Sturgeon added that while Arden would most likely have been tracked down eventually, catching him in the act allowed police to skip a lengthy investigation, and the information obtained from the numerous witnesses will be of great help for prosecutors.

Sturgeon also commended the officer who cut Arden off before he could leave the parking lot, explaining that the snow bank tactic was a good example of how officers are trained to think on their feet.

“We overcome and adapt to a lot of different things,” Sturgeon said. “It was either doing that, or probably getting in a pursuit with this guy. It was a very appropriate response.”

Charges pending

Official charges against Arden are still pending, but he was booked for armed robbery and aggravated robbery.

The firearm police confiscated from Arden turned out to be a pellet gun, but Sturgeon said that still qualifies Arden for armed robbery charges.

Arden has a lengthy criminal record dating back to 1995 that includes theft, domestic assault, disorderly conduct and misdemeanor drug charges.

Luke Reiter can be reached at lreiter@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7815.

 

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