Thursday, December 8, 2016

Man denies robbing Springfield pharmacy

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Police said an armed Perkinsville man was arrested Monday following a 2½-hour standoff and charged with holding up a Springfield pharmacy at gunpoint earlier that morning.

Springfield Police said Michael Bickford, 37, is also the main suspect in two recent bank robberies in town. In all three robberies, police said, the suspect wore a green hoodie with a camouflage bandana over his face, and displayed a large black handgun.

Bickford, who has no criminal record, was held for lack of $25,000 bail after his arraignment Tuesday in White River Junction criminal court.

He pleaded not guilty to a felony count of assault & robbery with a deadly weapon and to misdemeanor counts of careless and negligent operation of a vehicle and providing false information to police.

Pharmacist Michael Laubach told investigators that despite the face mask he immediately recognized the voice of the robber. He said it was a customer who had been regularly picking up prescriptions for Percocet painkillers at River Street Pharmacy for more than two years.

Laubach told police he recalled that he and the robber had the same first name but he couldn’t recall the last name until Springfield Police Chief Douglas Johnston suggested “Bickford.” Laubach said he was certain Michael Bickford was the man who had pointed a gun at him and pharmacy manager Marc Prouty shortly before 9 a.m. Monday morning.

In his sworn statement to police, Prouty said the robber “pulled a large caliber semi-automatic pistol from the pocket of his hoodie and demanded Oxycodone/Percocet.”

Prouty added, “He told me and the pharmacist not to try anything funny and to hurry up and get the drugs. I went back to the safe and grabbed all of the Percocet we had in stock, came back and gave it to him. He said his mom was `in the car and they’re going to kill her’ (if he didn’t bring drugs back with him). He took the drugs, said Thank You, and exited.”

Detectives Patrick Call and Shaun Smith said they spotted Bickford in his distinctive blue Mini Cooper car and was led on a high-speed chase on Route 106 north.

When they lost sight of the car, police from a half dozen surrounding agencies searched back roads looking for Bickford. Call and Smith, meanwhile, searched the Knapp Pond recreation area in Reading and spotted the Mini Cooper tucked into the tree line in a parking lot.

“Detective Smith and I exited the cruiser and immediately began issuing hard verbal commands (for Bickford) to get out of the vehicle and show us his hands,” Call wrote. in his affidavit.

But as more police surrounded him, Call said, the armed man stayed inside the car for more than two hours, talking by cellphone to his girlfriend, who relayed messages to and from police.
Bickford finally surrendered peacefully around noon, police said.

Police said the man had his hands out the window and the gun in his lap, saying he was afraid police would shoot him if the gun fell out of the car as he stood up. He exited the vehicle after receiving assurances from police, the affidavit said.

Police said they found a handgun and 621 narcotic pills in various pharmacy bottles inside the car.
Bickford faces up to 17 years in prison if convicted.

Rutland Herald

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