CHATHAM — Two Hyannis teens pleaded not guilty to felony charges Tuesday after they allegedly robbed the Corner Store Friday evening, brandishing a semiautomatic handgun and a Taser and making off with an undetermined amount of cash.
Thanks to fast thinking by victims and witnesses at the restaurant and cooperation with the Harwich police, the two men were arrested a short time later. No one was hurt.
“We absolutely appreciate and recognize the accurate, timely, detailed descriptions provided by the witnesses and victims. That was key,” Chatham Police Lt. Michael Anderson said. Anderson also praised the people in the store for not putting themselves in harm's way.
Shortly after 7 p.m., a plumber working at the restaurant called 911 to report that the robbery had just occurred. Witnesses told police that two men had entered the store through an unlocked rear door; both were wearing white masks and hooded sweatshirts, and one held a handgun while the other had a Taser. Anderson said the subject with the Taser activated it twice, showing those in the store the spark. The two left the building through the same door, climbing into the back seat of a Jeep Grand Cherokee, which sped away south on Route 137.
Anderson credited Chatham Police Dispatcher Amanda DeOliveira for rapidly putting out a description of the vehicle, with the license number provided by witnesses, and the broadcast was received by police in surrounding towns. A short time later, Harwich Police Officer Mark Holmes heard the call and diverted from Saquatucket Harbor to South Harwich, spotting the suspect vehicle as it passed him. He followed the vehicle north on Chatham Road and was joined by a large number of other Harwich officers, who stopped it on Oak Street, ordering the people out at gunpoint.
“We couldn't have done this case without the Harwich Police Department,” Anderson said.
Based on the investigation “and what was observed in the car, both male passengers in the back seat were arrested,” Anderson said. Two women in the front seat have not yet been charged with any crime, “but the investigation is continuing. There may be charges forthcoming.”
The two men, identified as Wilhelm Alvarez and Cesar Mata, both 19 years old from Hyannis, were arrested and charged with felony breaking and entering in the daytime and armed robbery while masked.
“That's a very, very serious crime,” Anderson said.
The two men were brought to the Chatham police station for booking and the vehicle was held in Chatham pending the issuance of a search warrant, which was executed Saturday. Inside the vehicle, police found a bag containing cash, a black Taser, along with masks and clothing matching the ones worn by the suspects. Technicians from the Barnstable County Sheriff's Office pored over the crime scene and processed the evidence collected there.
Acting on information from the investigation, Chatham Police Det. Lou Malzone recovered a handgun from the woods off Route 137 at around 3 p.m. Saturday.
Asked whether the suspects had intentionally taken a circuitous route to Harwich Center in order to throw off police, Anderson could not comment.
“We're working on that,” he said.
The Corner Store was closed at the time of the robbery, but employees and the plumber were still present. Asked whether there is any connection between either of the suspects and the restaurant, Anderson said only that the investigation is ongoing.
The two men were arraigned in Orleans District Court Tuesday morning, but Anderson said the case has been referred to the Cape and Islands District Attorney's Office, and the suspects' next appearance will be in Barnstable Superior Court.