Sus­pects in Elk­ton rob­bery linked to other holdups

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By CARL HAMIL­TON

ca­hamil­ton@ce­cil­whig.com

— 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.

Branch and

ELK­TON

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.

CE­CIL WHIG FILE PHOTO BY CARL HAMIL­TON

Elk­ton Po­lice Depart­ment de­tec­tives and of­fi­cers work be­hind the crime-scene tape Wed­nes­day, mo­ments af­ter a gun­man robbed the place.

KOL­MO­NEN

BRANCH

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