For 7-Eleven clerk Niranjan Singh, the sight of Roby Brown coming through the door on Dec. 23 must’ve triggered an internal Oh, fuck. After all, Brown was a suspect in at least five previous robberies of the store, located at 3702 Auburn Way N. in Auburn, since October. Singh had come to know the M.O. well, having been on duty for three of those occasions: The bandit would brandish a laser-sighted pistol, take the cash in the register, and then shoplift household goods, cigarettes, and cases of Coors Light.
Singh called 911 when he realized he was being robbed for a fourth time. The robber apparently hadn’t altered his appearance since his previous visit five days earlier: He was wearing the same dice-decorated sweatshirt and had the same paisley-pattered bandana stretched over his face. Singh rang up customers as he watched Brown meander around the store, stuffing merchandise into a backpack. Then Brown snatched an 18-pack of Coors Light and left.
This time, however, Singh had a secret weapon: a radio alarm a detective had dropped off the day before. Officers quickly arrived and found Brown lying under a vehicle in a nearby parking lot. The gun on him turned out to be a replica that shot paintballs.
In an interview with police, the 21-year-old Brown explained that he was living out of an Oldsmobile Bravada in the parking lot of Emerald Downs racetrack. He wouldn’t cop to robbery, but admitted to shoplifting—it was his way to grocery shop. Officers who searched his car found the following message scrawled in a notebook: “THE LAST ONE PERIOD. It’s Christmas. Cool, Calm, let me do what I have to do & get out of here.” That was followed by a catalog of items, such as honey, charcoal, wood, gas, “Gatorade, Aluminum Foil, Beef Jerky, Sandwichs, Cigarettes, Money--85-100+, Beer.”
A detective analyzing the note made this comment in Brown’s court file: “I found it odd that he would put ‘money’ on his shopping list.”
Brown is now in jail. Calls to the 7-Eleven were directed to corporate HQ, but Sgt. Jamie Sidell, a PIO with the Auburn Police Department, describes Brown’s as “a good arrest.” “Everybody that gets arrested has some sort of story behind why he’s doing it. I can’t recall of any [stories] like this,” says Sidell. “It’s an act of desperation, when you get right down to it.”