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A man pretending to be a shopper robbed the Susie’s Hallmark store on Lake Murray Boulevard in La Mesa at approximately 2 p.m. on Thursday, October 22. The man had entered the gift shop and browsed for several minutes, waiting for other customers to leave before revealing a dark-colored handgun. He demanded an undisclosed sum of money from the clerks and fled the area on foot. The store clerks waited a few minutes before calling 911.

“I don’t know why they waited in this particular case,” says Lt. Matt Nicholass of the La Mesa Police Department. “Sometimes people are afraid to call 911. We would always encourage people to call right away.”

Once the 911 call was received, La Mesa police and the sheriff’s ASTREA helicopter responded and searched for the perpetrator but were unable to locate him. He was last seen walking in front of the strip mall, heading westbound toward Baltimore Drive. He wore large, dark sunglasses and is described as an Asian male in his 30s, approximately 5’3” to 5’4” tall. He had short black hair and wore a blue-and-white striped shirt with a collar.

“We think that this robbery is related to a series of robberies in San Diego,” says Nicholass, noting that La Mesa police will want to work together with the SDPD if the case involves both jurisdictions.

On October 23, San Diego Crime Stoppers issued an alert, asking for assistance from the public to help identify the “Back Room Bandit.” The description of the suspect is nearly identical to that of the suspect in the La Mesa Hallmark store robbery. The “Back Room Bandit” has robbed businesses in Chula Vista, National City, El Cajon, the Midway area, and La Mesa during September and October. The businesses include a bakery, three pet stores, a florist, a deli, and a Baskin-Robbins ice cream shop.

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