By Karen Zautyk
From the Department of You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: A suspect in the robbery of a Kearny store has been linked to an earlier heist in Belleville thanks to a cash register drawer he left in plain view on the back seat of his car, authorities reported.
The alleged bandit was identified as Matthew James, 28, of Monroe Township, formerly of Belleville.
The suspect apparently also has a penchant for lime green T-shirts and lime green/orange gloves, which police said helped in identifying him. Last Wednesday, March 19, Kearny police said, a ski-masked individual entered a liquor store/deli on Davis Ave. at 4:15 p.m. and asked for a pack of cigarettes. He then reportedly ran behind the counter and grabbed a fistful of bills from the register. A short struggle ensued with the proprietor, who was pushed and punched, but who managed to pull up the mask, partially revealing the man’s face, police said. The culprit then fled on foot.
Officers Brian Wisely, Luis Moran, Peter Jahera and Giovanni Rodriguez responded to the scene and set up a containment perimeter. Soon after, Moran spotted James running through backyards on the 100 block of Tappan St., police said. Wisely, who had been searching Dukes St. yards, and Jahera joined the chase. Jahera tackled the runner and both officers finally managed to cuff him, although he resisted arrest, police said.
When apprehended, James allegedly attempted to discard fistfuls of cash.
Police said he had apparently removed some of his outer clothes during his flight and was now clad in a lime-green T-shirt, the same color worn by the Belleville bandit.
The proprietor of the Kearny store was driven to the scene and identified the suspect, police said.
Meanwhile, Det. Scott Traynor was canvassing the path of flight and on Hoyt St. found a parked 1994 Mercury with its window down and a cash register drawer on the back seat, police reported. Also reportedly in the car were distinctive lime green and orange gloves, similar to those worn by the Belleville bandit. A ski mask was found along the route of flight, police said.
Belleville police told The Observer that James has been linked to the holdup of the BP gas station on Main St. on March 17. At 8:43 p.m. on that date, he allegedly entered the station’s store and ripped the cash register from the counter. Outside, he robbed the station attendant, police said.
The bandit, who reportedly had gotten $450 from the register and $150 from the attendant, fled on foot down Little St. A Belleville PD K-9 unit tracked him to Ralph St., two blocks west, where he it appeared he had entered a vehicle and driven off.
The next day, Belleville police said, a man fitting the BP bandit’s description robbed a deli in Bloomfield, but authorities were able to obtain a partial plate on the getaway car.
Belleville has charged James with robbery in the BP crime and with two separate gas station burglaries, on Feb. 27 and March 10.
In Kearny, James is charged with robbery, resisting arrest and trespassing (for entering the backyards).