Suspects in Elkton robbery linked to other holdups
— Two men captured within 15 minutes of robbing an Elkton pharmacy last week have been linked to at least eight other, similar holdups, including one that occurred in the Elkton-area in August, police reported.
Delaware State Police troopers arrested the suspects, Brian J. Branch, 28, of New Castle, Del., and Michael A. Kolmonen, 28, of Wilmington, Del., shortly after they allegedly robbed the Walgreens at 301 E. Pulaski Highway in Elkton about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, police said.
Troopers captured Branch and Kolmonen – the alleged gunman and getaway driver respectively – in the parking lot of a Wawa in Bear, Del., moments after they had crossed the state line from Cecil County, police added.
They did so, having received a swiftly radioed beon-the-lookout bulletin from Elkton Police Department officers and having already developed Branch and Kolmonen as suspects in connection with seven armed robberies that had occurred in Delaware since early August, police reported.
Branch and Kolmonen also have been linked to at least one armed robbery in Upper Chichester Township, Pa., according to police.
In addition, closer to home, Branch and Kolmonen are suspects in an armed robbery that occurred about 5:45 p.m. on Aug. 31 at the Rite Aid Pharmacy at 728 E. Pulaski Highway near Elkton, Lt. Michael Holmes, a Cecil County Sheriff’s Office spokesman, reported Sunday.
Kolmonen are facing numerous charges relating to the Delawar e incidents, including armed r o b b e r y, wearing a disguise during the commission of a felony and use of a handgun in the commission of a felony or crime of violence, police said.
As of Sunday, Branch and Kolmonen remained in the Howard Young Correctional Institution in Wilmington, Del. in lieu of $3.8 million and $625,000 bonds respectively, police added.
At some point, they will be extradited back to Cecil County to face charges relating to the Walgreens and Rite Aid robberies.
DSP detectives started their investigation in early August after noticing “a trend in robberies which had been occurring throughout New Castle County, which mostly targeted pharmacies,” DSP Officer Master Cpl. Jeffrey Hale said.
After learning that similar armed robberies had occurred in Cecil County and Pennsylvania, DSP investigators communicated with detectives in those jurisdictions, he added.
“Through a cooperative effort of multiple agencies, including the New Castle County Police, the Cecil County Sheriff’s Office, the Elkton Police Department, and the Upper Chichester Township Police Department, and after multiple interviews and other investigative means, troopers were able to positively identify Brian Branch and Michael Kolmonen as the suspects who were committing the robberies,” Hale explained.
In each incident, one of the suspects would enter the business, display a handgun and demand money from the clerk, according to police. After the employee would comply, the suspect would run from the store to a waiting getaway vehicle, police reported.
Such was the case with Wednesday’s robbery at the Walgreens in Elkton, where a suspect — later identified as Branch — brandished a handgun and demanded money, according to Capt. Joseph Zurolo, an EPD spokesman.
“He reached over the counter and grabbed the money and then fled on foot,” Zurolo said, adding that he was last seen running north on nearby Whitehall Road.
Shortly after the armed robbery, a hunt by a specially-trained scent dog and his handler led investigators to conclude that the gunman had met a waiting getaway driver – later identified as Kolmonen — and sped away, according to Zurolo.
“Our K-9 was tracking and it (the scent) stopped cold at Coachman Drive, so we believed there was a getaway driver involved,” Zurolo said, referring to a neighborhood road that is close to the Walgreens.
EPD detectives quickly radioed a be-on-the-lookout bulletin to area police agencies, including DSP, and described the gunman as a white man about 5-feet, 4-inches tall, weighing 145 pounds, and wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt, jeans and a ski mask, Zurolo reported.
Within 15 minutes after the armed robbery, DSP troopers had captured the suspects.
In Delaware, Branch and Kolmonen stand accused of robbing the Walgreens on Marrows Road in Newark on Aug. 22, Walgreens on Pulaski Highway in Newark on Sept. 1, CVS on Pulaski Highway in Bear on Sept. 13, Dunkirk Liquors in Wilmington on Sept. 14, Walgreens in Wilmington on Sept. 16 and Walgreens in Bear on Sept. 18, police reported.
Information regarding the Pennsylvania robbery was unavailable, as of Sunday.
Elkton Police Department detectives and officers work behind the crime-scene tape Wednesday, moments after a gunman robbed the place.