PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. — A man accused of two armed robberies and under investigation for more than 12 others in Tacoma was in court on Wednesday.
David Wenzel, 31, pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from an armed robbery at a Walgreens at 4315 Sixth Ave. on April 13, and at AgriShop Tacoma Ace Hardware at 2012 S. 12th Street on March 3.
Wenzel was arrested on Tuesday after he was involved in a hit-and-run on the 700 block of Tacoma Avenue. During his arrest, officers recognized him as a wanted suspect for the two robberies.
Nicole Jones, an assistant manager at AgriShop Tacoma Ace Hardware, said her family has owned the store since 1986. She said the store has dealt with crime over the years, but this incident was its first armed robbery.
“I think that was probably the scariest thing,” Jones said on Wednesday. “We were here at the height of the 80s, where a lot of really bad stuff was happening in the neighborhood. We never once thought of anything like (this) happening here.”
Jones said Wenzel entered the store without responding to greetings by workers, then walked around the store. Jones said she and another employee approached Wenzel, who said he was looking for spray paint.
Alexandra “Alex” Kepl was working the register when Wenzel approached her and another cashier.
“He grabs a bottle (of spray paint), brings it up to the register, and sits it down,” Kepl said. “Right when he got totaled out, he pulls up his waistband.”
Court documents show Wenzel brandished a black semi-automatic handgun before leaving with about $137 and a spray paint can.
“I even told him straight to his face, I was like, ‘You’re wasting your time, man. It’s not worth it.’ He still walked out with it though,” Kepl said.
About a month later, Wenzel was identified as the suspect of an armed robbery at a nearby Walgreens. Wenzel brandished a black handgun before taking $1,500 in cash, according to court documents. The documents also show the money Wenzel took contained a tracking device.
Employees at AgriShop Tacoma said Wenzel’s arrest gives them hope going forward.
“We really appreciate the work TPD did. They were here for over an hour after it happened, dusting for prints and looking for evidence. ... I hate to say it because something has led (Wenzel) in life for this to happen, but we’re happy that we’re getting justice,” Jones said. “It’s a beautiful community out here. We want it to thrive. And we’re glad that hopefully things will get better moving forward.”
On Wednesday, a judge set Wenzel’s bond at $50,000. He’s scheduled to be back in court on May 27.
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