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Quick Police Actions Led to 'Drugstore Cowboy' Arrest

Quick Police Actions Led to 'Drugstore Cowboy' Arrest

James Fogle

Seattle Post Intelligencer via YellowBrix

May 28, 2010

REDMOND, WA – Thanks to a silent alarm, alert employees, a 911 call and quick police response, Redmond cops caught the notorious real-life “Drugstore Cowboy” trying to rob a downtown pharmacy last night.

Redmond police arrested 73-year-old James Fogle, whose book about a life spent stealing narcotics became the critically acclaimed movie “Drugstore Cowboy,” and Shannon Benn, 45, for investigation of first-degree armed robbery. The two men were allegedly trying to steal prescription drugs from Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy, which is adjacent to a 24-hour QFC and just a few blocks from the Redmond Public Safety Building.

Fogle, who has spent nearly half of his life behind bars for a myriad of crimes, and Benn will appear in a King County Superior Court tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. when a judge will set bail, according to Dan Donohoe, spokesperson for the King County Prosecutor’s Office.

The charges Fogle and Benn face will not be determined until Friday or next Tuesday, Donohoe said.

Right around the 9 p.m. closing time last night, a Pharmaca employee was locking the front door when one of the suspects showed the employee he had a gun and forced his way into the store, located at 15840 Redmond Way, and demanded drugs. Fogle and Benn, both from Tacoma, began tying up the three staff members and asked one female employee to turn off the store lights. The employee quickly went to the front door and as she was turning off the lights, she saw a woman who was walking by. The employee cracked the front door open and whispered to the passerby to call 911.

The woman passerby, unaware of exactly what was going on, called 911, but realized what was happening as she looked through the front glass doors.

Around that same time, another pharmacy employee triggered a silent alarm, alerting police dispatch of an emergency.

Eleven Redmond police officers responded and surrounded the building, according to Redmond police spokesperson Jim Bove. Fogle and Benn, who were carrying “bins of drugs,” saw several officers in front of the building and tried to escape through the back door, according to Bove. But officers were right there and took Fogle and Benn into custody at gunpoint, Bove said.

“He’s known throughout other agencies,” Bove said. “Detectives from other agencies called and congratulated us and told us how prolific of a pharmacy robber he is. It’s good to know we have someone in custody who has done a lot of damage. … Other agencies are glad to see him in jail.”

The three Pharmaca staff members were not injured and the case is still being investigated.

Bove said “everything that had to happen right, happened right. We can’t say enough about how well everybody handled the situation. Everything fell into place.”

Pharmaca declined to identify the three employees in order to protect their privacy, according to front store manager Gary De Lay, who was not working during the robbery, but was called into the store after it happened.

“I wouldn’t have expected something like this to happen in Redmond,” said De Lay, who has managed the holistic, multi-service store since last November. “The best possible outcame happened. I am so proud of my team. They kept their cool. We train for that all the time and they did exactly what they were supposed to do.”

The woman who called 911 — “the pivotal factor” in catching the crooks, according to Bove — declined to talk to the media, Bove said, “but she said she was fearful for the employee who asked her to call 911 and is happy that nobody was injured.”

During one of his prison stays in California in the 1970s, Fogle wrote the manuscript for “Drugstore Cowboy,” which became the 1989 movie starring Matt Dillon. He became a prison celebrity in 1989 when Portland filmmaker Gus Van Sant made a movie on Fogle’s then-unpublished novel. “Drugstore Cowboy,” starring Matt Dillon, got rave reviews. The movie was nominated for 11 awards and won four of them, including awards from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics.

The story of the movie follows Bob Hughes (Matt Dillon) and his “family” of drug addicts as they travel across the Pacific Northwest in the early 1970s, supporting their habit by robbing pharmacies and hospitals.

Fogle was believed to be back in action as Centralia police linked Fogle to a brazen heist last year, according to a report by Washington’s Most Wanted.

Fogle and another man sawed their way through the pharmacy wall from an adjacent business and stole money and drugs in the January 2009 robbery. Police caught and arrested Fogle’s partner in crime, Marvin Flowers-Roscoe March 30, 2010, after linking nasal discharge DNA to him.

“I figured with all the drywall dust, they were probably blowing their nose so I called the state lab and asked if they could get DNA off of snot and the scientists laughed and said ‘yeah’ and said ‘send me the stuff,’ so I did,” Centralia detective Carl Buster told Washington’s Most Wanted.

But Fogle remained on the loose — until yesterday.

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