CAUGHT ON CAMERA: Gunmen rob medical marijuana dispensary in Pierce County

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PARKLAND -- Two armed men walked into a medical marijuana dispensary, put a gun in the clerk’s face, and stole cash and drugs. But they were caught on camera. Now detectives are hoping you can help catch them.

“It’s not a matter of if they get caught, it’s a matter of when,” says Tesa Zanotelli, the owner of 8th Wonder in Parkland.

She says the armed men knocked on the door Saturday night, when only one employee was working.

“He didn’t think anything of it so he went over and opened the door, not checking our security system. That’s when they put the gun in his face.”

In the surveillance video, the men are seen with masks over their faces, waving the gun at the employee on the floor. Zanotelli says they got away with a “considerable amount” of cash and marijuana.

“We knew it was probably a matter of time. Any dispensary knows it’s only a matter of time, because everyone knows it’s a cash-based business. We’re hoping to get to that point where it’s not that way, so we can not only protect ourselves but also protect the community.”

Investigators with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department admit they get a lot of calls about thefts of medical marijuana dispensaries and employees.

“Wherever there is cash, there's going to be the criminal element,” says sheriff's detective Ed Troyer. “And there's a lot of it in this business, because the banking industry hasn't caught up and the feds need to do something about that.”

The owners of Green Kings, another dispensary in Pierce County, say they hope the law changes, so they’re not such a target for thieves.

“There’s no insurances for these businesses, we're not federally backed,” says Cheyenne Ogas. “So there's not really anyone for us to turn to.”

After hearing about past robberies, she added security doors and surveillance systems to give her employees more protection.

“We also try to keep a low amount of money on hand, so we don't have those types of problems,” says Amy Celletti.

Zanotelli hopes her employees will be safer if they work in teams from now on.

“We’re changing some of the things in the store itself to eliminate the blind spots, so this doesn’t happen again. Because I don’t want this to ever happen again.”

The first suspect is described as a black man in his 20s, 5-foot-10 and about 200 pounds. He was seen wearing a black hooded sweatshirt, black shorts, and a black doo-rag.

The second suspect is described as a black man in his 20s, 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds. He was seen wearing a red hooded sweatshirt, black pants, and carrying a black backpack.

If you can recognize them, call Crime Stoppers of Tacoma-Pierce County at 1-800-222-TIPS. All calls are anonymous and there is a cash reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to their arrest.

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  • Justin Case

    FYI: This story sounds super odd. It’s standard practice at Medical Dispensaries that Two or more employees are on duty at all times. (Ya Know In Case It Gets Robbed) Odd that only one employee was on duty and also odd that he would allow two people in the shop at the same time. I’d be on the lookout as these Medical dispensaries get shut down for more thefts.

  • hellomurica

    These places are raking in the cash. They should never only have one employee. If they do, the place should be designed like a bank which is in risky areas, and should be partitioned with bulletproof glass between the lobby and the employees. Bonus points for having security doors that the employee can lock remotely. This way if someone tries to rob the place, the employee can simply press a button and the front doors lock, trapping the suspect. Then they can call the police, and let them take out the trash.

  • dg54321

    Problem is these places cropped up like wildfire and they come and go rapidly. They aren’t putting in the money or time for proper security or even hardening their business from robbery. Everybody knows they have lots of cash on hand and drugs that can be easily resold on the black market.

    Harden your business against these kinds of things or watch opportunists take advantage.

  • Duncan20903

    Once again that eeeee-vee-ill merrywanna has hypnotized good people and turned them into criminals. There’s no doubt that but for the existence of cannabis that the culprits in this case would have instead been singing in the church choir on Sundays, working as a full time volunteers at the soup kitchen feeding the hungry, and helping diminutive, elderly women negotiate busy traffic intersections in their spare time. There’s no doubt whatever that were it not for merrywanna, that there would be no crime in our society!

  • southieirish

    Here’s a few suggestions:
    Keep the door locked, and don’t let black thugs with hoods on inside your business.
    Am I the only one who notices that every single robbery of a MMJ business in Western Washington has been done by black guys? Can you show me ONCE where the perps were white?
    Didn’t think so.

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