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Citizen aids Bellingham Police in locating suspected robber

Bellingham Police vehicle (October 9, 2016). Photo: Whatcom News
Bellingham Police vehicle (October 9, 2016). Photo: Whatcom News

BELLINGHAM, Wash. — A civilian assisted Bellingham Police as they responded to a report of a retail business having just been robbed.

According to a probable cause statement submitted in Whatcom County Superior Court, on April 15th around 9:15pm a man walked into a retail business in the 4100 block of Meridian Street and engaged an employee in assisting him. They then walked to a checkout counter where the man instructed the employee to open and empty the cash register. The employee later told police investigators the man placed his hand under his shirt as if threatening with a weapon. The man fled the store with the cash from the register.

Bellingham Police were dispatched to the store and a civilian, hearing the sirens, noticed the man running and frequently looking over his shoulder. Believing this was someone police were looking for, the civilian began to follow the man and called 911 to provide the man’s description and location. The description matched what employees had given police.

The man realized he was being followed and told the civilian to stop and took a swing but missed.

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The man was followed up until he went into a wooded area about a quarter mile from the store in the 200 block of E Bakerview Road.

A Bellingham Police K9 officer arrived and the civilian directed them to the location where the suspect entered the woods. A track was begun and the suspect was located in a nearby pond and arrested.

A subsequent search of the suspect found a large amount of cash wrapped in a strip of paper with the store’s name printed on it.

The suspect was identified in the affidavit as William Gustafson, age 41, and, according to court records, he has been charged with suspicion of 1st degree robbery and 4th degree assault.

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At the time of the robbery, Gustafson was out of custody after posting $5,000 bond while facing trial in Whatcom County Superior Court on suspicion of felony residential burglary from an arrest in 2019. At the time of the 2019 incident, it was noted he had various felony and misdemeanor convictions for robbery, theft, retail theft and taking a motor vehicle without the owner’s permission.

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