'Suicide by cop' believed to be motive behind Friday robbery of Sears EZ Mart

SEARS — Before asking for cash from the register when he held up the Sears EZ Mart on Friday, the gunman raised his shotgun and demanded someone inside call the police.

“This guy walked up behind us with a shotgun and said, ‘Call the cops,’” said Sears resident Art Damman, who was inside the store on Friday when the gunman took over. “Then he racked the gun, told (the clerk) to open the cash register and fired the gun into the ceiling. Then he ordered everybody out of the store.”

Osceola County Sheriff’s deputies and Michigan State Police troopers arrived on the scene shortly after 3 p.m. and stood by while the gunman, whose name has not been released pending arraignment, barricaded himself alone inside the store for almost two hours.

During the standoff, police closed down parts of U.S. 10 and M-66 in the mile surrounding the gas station, which is located at the intersection of the two highways.

“We were all prepared for a chase or to catch him outside, but as we kept getting closer and closer, dispatch was saying he was still in the store,” said Osceola County Sheriff Jim Crawford. “When we got here, we found he’d run everybody out of the store. It’s very unusual because most armed robbers try to get away as quick as possible.”

Shortly before 5 p.m., the man surrendered and was taken into custody without incident, Crawford said. No civilians or officers were injured during the standoff. The cash the man took from the register was recovered when he was arrested.

Because the man’s behavior during the standoff was so unusual, police believe he intended to commit “suicide by cop,” Crawford said.

“When somebody commits a robbery and doesn’t leave, he usually has other motives,” he said.

Kay Crum, an EZ Mart employee, was not working at the time but had communicated with co-workers who were on shift during the hold-up. She stood by police barricades while officers investigated the crime scene.

She described the gunman as “a regular,” someone who lives in the area and is known to those who work at the EZ Mart.

“He wasn’t out to hurt anyone but himself,” Crum said. “It’s sad because he’s desperate, kind of psychologically out-of-focus.”

Damman also said he didn’t believe the man intended to hurt anyone inside the store.

“I was kind of worried he’d start shooting, but he didn’t. He ordered everyone out,” he said. “I don’t think he wanted to hurt anyone. I just think he wanted the money.”

The man is lodged in Osceola County Jail. He is expected to be arraigned on Monday.