Gas stations hit in robbery spree

Ian Rawls

MICHIGAN CITY — A Michigan City man is in custody, charged with robbing a gas station on Sunday and believed to be involved in a string of at least four armed robberies in the Michigan City area over the weekend.

Ian Ladwuane Rawls, 30, has been charged with one felony count of robbery and one misdemeanor count of resisting arrest, according to court records. He is being held in the La Porte County Jail on a $25,000 cash bond.

Rawls was arrested Sunday night shortly after an armed robbery at the SAVE station at 1811 Franklin St., according to Michigan City Police.

The station was robbed shortly after 10:15 p.m. Sunday by a man, described as a black male in his 30s, who was brandishing a firearm, according to a police report.

According to a probable cause affidavit, the suspect was let into the station by the employee, and when she told him to put his hood down, he pulled a bandana over his face, pointed a gun at her and demanded cash.

When the employee told him the gun appeared to be a fake, he pulled back the slide to chamber a round, said the gun was real, and threatened to shoot her, the affidavit states.

The frightened employee put the cash from the register, along with Swisher Sweet Cigarillos, into a bag the man carried, then was told to lie on the ground and count to 50, or she would be shot, according to the affidavit.

As officers were responding to the SAVE robbery, other officers were already searching for a vehicle and suspect from another robbery, which occurred two hours earlier at the Family Express station at 5822 Franklin St., police said.

Shortly after the SAVE robbery, officers found a vehicle matching the description at the GOLO station at Poplar and Michigan, police said.

“As an attempt was made to stop the vehicle, the suspect, later identified as Rawls, fled on foot,” MCPD Sgt. Chris Yagelski said. “Rawls, fitting the description given to the officers, fled as the uniformed officer gave chase. He then attempted to re-enter his vehicle and was stopped at gunpoint and placed under arrest.”

The vehicle was impounded and Rawls was taken into custody after being identified by the victim of the SAVE robbery, Yagelski said.

Evidence linking Rawls to the crime was found during a search of the vehicle, including the bandana and a bag of cigars, according to the affidavit, which said Rawls had $267 in cash in his pocket, and told police there was a BB gun in the car.

He was also wearing an ankle monitor that was covered in aluminum foil, the affidavit said. Court records show Rawls pleaded guilty in July 2018 to resisting law enforcement and was sentenced to a year in prison. Charges of escape, making a false identity statement and possession of paraphernalia were dismissed as part of a plea deal.

The other Michigan City gas station to be robbed over the weekend was the BP at 702 Ind. 212, which was struck about 1:15 p.m. Saturday by a man carrying a firearm, according to a police report.

And the La Porte County Sheriff’s Department is investigating an armed robbery that occurred about 1:59 a.m. Saturday at the Speedway station near the intersection of U.S. 20 and U.S. 35, according to Capt. Derek Allen.

The descriptions given in all the robberies were similar – a black male about 30, wearing a black hoodie and blue jeans with distinctive red markings on the pockets, according to the probable cause affidavit filed Monday in Superior Court 1.

According to the affidavit, in each instance, the robber stole cash, cartons and/or packs of cigarettes and cigars, and a cash box from one station. The vehicle descriptions were also similar – a dark sedan, possibly green, with no hubcaps.

The investigation by MCPD and the La Porte County Sheriff’s Department was ongoing as of late Tuesday, and no further charges had been filed against Rawls, through police said they could be pending.

Chief Mark Swistek applauded the “diligent efforts by the Patrol Division and Investigations to bring this string of armed robberies to a successful conclusion without any injury.”

Rawls is next scheduled to appear in Superior Court 1 on March 26. 

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