Tomball police have charged a man they say was responsible for two robberies in the city. It would have been a third had an alert clerk not foiled one of his attempts.
Jefferey Burge, 25, was charged with two counts of aggravated robbery in Harris County Court, after an anonymous tip was phoned into the Magnolia Police Department claiming he knew where the suspect was.
The search started after Burge allegedly robbed the Just Scrubs store on Business 249 Aug. 15. That's was just the first in what police believe was a robbery spree committed by Burge.
"He appeared to be shopping and claimed to be shopping for scrubs for his girlfriend," said Det. Smith of the Tomball Police Department (TPD). "He then went outside, claiming he needed to retrieve his wallet. He came back into the store and asked to wash his hands. He then pulled out a handgun and demanded money, threatening the clerk."
"(Aug. 16) Tomball police personnel received information from Montgomery County Sheriff's Office investigators regarding two aggravated robberies that had occurred at local hotels in Montgomery County – one in the city of Magnolia and the other in the county," a Tomball Police Department (TPD) statement said. "The information shared between the three agencies identified the suspect as the same white male that had robbed Just Scrubs on Thursday the 15th."
The hotels the statement referred to are the LaQuinta Inn at FM 2978 and FM 1488 and the Magnolia Inn & Suites in Magnolia.
After a quiet weekend, police say that Burge struck again - or at least attempted to.
It was Yami Lopez' first day on the job at Comfort Inn, when the suspect walked in, waiting on two hotel guests to finish up at the front desk. Lopez immediately recognized the suspect, as her manager had posted the picture from the Tribune at the front desk.
"I took the clipping and taped it to the front desk," said manager Deanna Gray. "I told them if you see someone that looks like him, don't second guess yourself, just call the police."
Lopez called the main police phone line and began to try to explain that she needed assistance, without giving the suspect an idea of who she was talking to.
"She called them and said she was having computer problems and they needed to send someone down here right away," Gray said.
That's when one of the guests at the front desk began to question the man. It must have scared the man enough, because he turned around and walked out.
"When he left he looked like he was pretty angry," Gray said.
That's when police allege that Burge travelled across Business 249 and robbed the LaQuinta Inn in Tomball. Instead of a handgun, this time the man brandished a knife.
"At approximately 4:45 pm, Tomball Police Officers were dispatched to the La Quinta Inn regarding an aggravated robbery," the TPD statement said. "Witnesses advised police personnel that a white male subject entered the lobby area of the hotel, looked around, then brandished a knife and approached the front counter and demanded the money in the cash drawer. Upon removing the money the suspect fled the scene in a maroon colored midsized sports utility vehicle."
The following afternoon officers with the Magnolia Police Department contacted Tomball officers, advising that they had received an anonymous tip from a caller who had seen surveillance footage of the Comfort Inn incident on television. The tipster told police he knew who the suspect was and identified Burge, telling police where he lived.
Late that night officers from Magnolia and Tomball, along with state troopers went to Burge's home and arrested him on outstanding Harris County and Tomball warrants.
Burge now sits in the Harris County Jail with no bond for a Motion to Revoke Probation warrant and a total of $90,000 in bonds on the two robbery charges. He also possibly faces charges in Montgomery County, according to the Tomball police.
"The quick identification and arrest of Jefferey Burge, the prime suspect in a spree of aggravated robberies spanning multiple jurisdictions, is due in part to a group effort approach," said TPD Cpt. Rickey Doerre. "Local media aired the surveillance video, a concerned citizen came forward and provided critical information to authorities and multiple law enforcement agencies worked together to facilitate the identification, location and arrest of the suspect in question."