MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — When the men in masks burst into the marijuana store Nov. 21 they left no doubt who was in charge.
One brandished a military style rifle. The other pointed a handgun.
They ordered the security guard onto the ground. They seized cellphones. Then they demanded that the other workers — known as budtenders — start filling garbage bags with specific pot products.
“One of the suspects made a comment to the effect of, ‘We’ve done this before,’” Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Andrew Alsdorf said in court papers filed earlier this month.
Officials believe that is true.
One of the men Alsdorf has charged with the takeover-style robbery at Rainier Cannabis — Bradford Marselas Johnson — was just 28 days out of prison after serving time for a 2015 holdup of another Snohomish County pot business.
Meanwhile, Eric Henry Woodberry, the other defendant in the Mountlake Terrace heist, already was facing charges in King County, accused of being part of an armed robbery crew. Members of that crew in February hit a Seattle pot business and a few days later took electronics and jewelry in a home invasion, court papers show.
Johnson, 20, of Edmonds, appeared Tuesday in Snohomish County Superior Court. He pleaded not guilty to all charges and was allowed to remain free on $50,000 bail previously posted in the case.
Judge George Appel also ordered that Johnson stay out of all pot stores. He stopped short of requiring the man to remain a set distance from the businesses, say 500 feet. The judge said there are just too many to make such an order enforceable.
“Those things have popped up like weeds,” Appel said.
Woodberry, 21, of Brier, has been jailed since the Mountlake Terrace robbery. At the time, he was being sought on a warrant charging him with participating in a Feb. 25 home invasion in Seattle. Some of his co-defendants in that case also are charged with robbing Greenworks Cannabis in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood a few days prior.
As happened in the November robbery, men wearing masks and brandishing firearms ordered everyone to the ground and demanded workers fill garbage bags with product. Police have said the crew also might have been responsible for the $24,000 in marijuana that showed up in a cooler donated to the Monroe Goodwill earlier this year.
The Mountlake Terrace robbery happened not long before the store was scheduled to close that November night.
Police were alerted to trouble by a 911 call from a person who was off-site and monitoring security cameras. The caller reported that workers were on the ground and two men wearing hoodies and masks were inside. At least one was carrying what the caller thought to be a “machine gun,” court papers say.
Officers from Mountlake Terrace arrived within 15 seconds of being dispatched, Alsdorf wrote. As events unfolded, they were joined by others from Edmonds, Lynnwood, the Washington State Patrol, Mukilteo, Everett, Shoreline and Seattle.
About four minutes into the incident, one of the robbers opened the door and looked outside. Confronted by police, he immediately slammed and locked the door.
The robbers told the employees they were now hostages and ordered them into a back hallway. The workers wound up locked in a bathroom after telling their captors about an alternate exit through an adjacent business.
The robbers fled, leaving behind the garbage bags, which later were inventoried and determined to contain roughly $36,000 in pot products. They carried off about $1,300 cash and marijuana they were able to stuff into their pockets, according to court papers.
By then, enough police had swarmed the area to set up tight containment.
Witnesses reported seeing the robbers run from the building and disappear into the dark. One dropped the rifle he was carrying. Packages of stolen marijuana and two cellphones taken during the robbery were found nearby.
Efforts to capture the robbers “were extensive, lasting more than two hours, even though each suspect was ultimately found hiding within four blocks of the robbery,” Alsdorf wrote.
Police found the likely getaway car, parked near the store with the engine running and the windshield wipers on. A check of the license plate showed it was registered to Johnson’s mother. She told police her son had borrowed it to “run errands,” the prosecutor wrote.
A police dog led officers to a boat covered by a tarp. Woodberry reportedly was trying to hide inside, with roughly $1,300 in his pocket.
“Multiple officers described Mr. Woodberry as smiling and almost giggling as they asked him questions about the incident,” Alsdorf wrote. “He did not make any notable statements except that he had received a number of cuts and scrapes while running.”
Johnson was captured about a half hour later. He didn’t talk with police. He reportedly was carrying two containers of marijuana stolen from Rainier Cannabis.
The rifle recovered after the holdup was determined to be an MGI Marck-15 semiautomatic rifle, Alsdorf wrote. It was reported stolen from a home in Snohomish in July, while Johnson was still in prison. It was outfitted with a short barrel, and its owners had to obtain federal permits and tax stamps to legally acquire the weapon, the prosecutor noted.
Johnson is charged with first-degree robbery and with being a felon in possession of a firearm while on community custody. He might face additional federal penalties for illegally possessing the rifle, Alsdorf wrote.
He’s looking at eight to 10 years in prison if convicted of the robbery, and perhaps much longer, if prosecutors seek an exceptional sentence. One potential ground could be rapid recidivism, Alsdorf noted.
The robbery that sent Johnson to prison in 2015 attracted attention after the pot store’s surveillance cameras captured high-quality video of the crime. A teenage co-defendant was recognized from his tattoos. On the way to jail, he reportedly said he’d participated in the holdup hoping to raise enough money to pay off his court fines. Johnson at the time was described as a “major marijuana dealer” who reportedly took pot by force to sell on the illegal market.
Johnson’s trial is now set for March.
Woodberry is facing a February trial. He’s also wanted on a warrant for the King County home invasion, his bail earlier set at $400,000.
Scott North: 425-339-3431; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @snorthnews.