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Robbery suspects arrested

Two Fargo men are in the Clay County Jail after they were arrested following a chase on Minnesota Highway 75 that hit speeds up to 100 mph. The two, suspects in an armed robbery and shooting early Sunday at a Wahpeton, N.D., convenience store, we...

Two Fargo men are in the Clay County Jail after they were arrested following a chase on Minnesota Highway 75 that hit speeds up to 100 mph.

The two, suspects in an armed robbery and shooting early Sunday at a Wahpeton, N.D., convenience store, were arrested trying to flee on foot in a field south of Rustad, Minn. The car they had been driving slid into the ditch when its tires were flattened by stop sticks.

James Samuel, 20, and James Kenyi, 19, are charged with felony fleeing a police officer, Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist said.

The circumstances surrounding the robbery are similar to two robberies that took place in Fargo on Oct. 19. Police said they will try to determine if the robberies are related.

Stop-N-Go clerk Roberta Mauer, 47, Wahpeton, suffered a "major gunshot wound" to her lower left leg, but still managed to give police a description of her assailant, Wahpeton Police Sgt. Dan Nordick said.


Mauer was at Fargo's MeritCare Hospital on Sunday and requested her condition not be released, a hospital official said.

Nordick said Samuel and Kenyi will face other charges -- including armed robbery and aggravated assault -- if it is determined there is enough evidence to tie them to the robbery. Richland County courts will then seek their extradition, he said.

One important piece of evidence is a 7.62 mm semiautomatic rifle found Sunday afternoon by a Wilkin County, Minn., sheriff's posse on the northbound side of Highway 75. The weapon was turned over to Wahpeton police for comparison with a shell casing found at the robbery scene.

The incident began about 1 a.m. Sunday, when a man wearing a stocking cap with holes cut in it for his eyes walked into the Stop-N-Go at 902 16th Ave. N. and fired a shot from a rifle, police said.

The robber then demanded "the big money" out of the safe, and shot Mauer once in the leg as she tried to get behind the counter, Nordick said.

It appears the robber then dragged Mauer to the safe, took an undetermined amount of cash from inside and fled, Nordick said. Police are studying surveillance video from the store.

Mauer then called police and described the suspect to Nordick while being treated by paramedics.

Meanwhile, Breckenridge police heard about the robbery and saw a light-colored Mercury Tracer without license plates heading east on the Highway 210 bypass road.


The chase begins

An officer pulled the Mercury over and when the officer got out to walk to the car, the driver took off, heading northbound on Highway 75.

The Breckenridge officer's chase hit speeds of up to 100 mph. Wilkin County deputies also joined the chase,

Minnesota Highway Patrol officers and Clay County deputies then deployed stop sticks just south of Rustad, Bergquist said.

The stop sticks flattened all the car's tires and it slid into the east ditch of Highway 75. Samuel and Kenyi then reportedly ran a short distance in a plowed field before being apprehended, law enforcement officials said.

Meanwhile, paramedics took Mauer to St. Francis Hospital in Breckenridge, then transferred her to MeritCare Hospital in Fargo.

There she gave a statement to Fargo Police about 3:27 a.m.

Nordick praised Mauer for her help.


"She was calm, relaxed and able to talk" even though she was "in a considerable amount of pain and shook up. She did a very good job," Nordick said.

He said surgery was performed on her leg at MeritCare, but no further information was available.

The Wilkin County Sheriff's Department posse found the rifle about 4:45 p.m. Sunday one mile north of the new diversion ditch bridge on Highway 75.

The chase vehicle was moved to the Breckenridge police impound lot and police were working to obtain a search warrant, Nordick said.

Robberies similar

The robbery is similar to two robberies that took place in Fargo in mid-October and "they're going to be looked at," Bergquist said.

In each of those late-night robberies, the robber fired shots in the direction of employees.

The first robbery occurred at the Burger King at 2253 South University Drive about 10:30 p.m. Oct. 19. The robber, described as a dark-skinned black male in his early 20s about 6 feet tall and 150 pounds, walked in through a kitchen backdoor and fired a shot from a rifle. A second shot came within a foot of an employee who had come out of a play area and was walking toward the kitchen.


The robber ordered all the employees to lie on the floor and took an undetermined amount of cash.

About an hour later, the Stop-N-Go store at 3220 12th Ave. N.W. was robbed.

In that robbery, witnesses said a light-skinned black male in his 20s, about 6 feet tall, 150 pounds, fired 10 rounds from a rifle. Eight rounds were fired at a security camera, and two more rounds were fired at the floor in front of a female employee.

The employee was hit by floor fragments and she was treated and released at MeritCare Hospital.

The robber left with an undetermined amount of cash in that robbery as well.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583

Helmut Schmidt is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead's business news team. Readers can reach him by email at hschmidt@forumcomm.com, or by calling (701) 241-5583.
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