Cops credit outreach for arrest

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staff, Gazette
Friday, April 12, 2013

— Authorities are crediting a teenage clerk at a DeForest drug store for helping in the arrest of a Delavan man suspected of robbing pharmacies in three states for pain medications.

At local pharmacies, meanwhile, the arrest of a suspect in more than 20 robberies over the past five months has brought a wave of relief.

Tony D. Taylor, 35, was arrested Tuesday afternoon outside the DeForest Hometown Pharmacy, police said.

He is the primary suspect in robberies for oxycodone in Wisconsin, Illinois and Nebraska, officials said at a press conference in Madison on Wednesday.

In most of these robberies, authorities said, Taylor walked into drug stores wearing a hood to conceal his face then handed pharmacists notes demanding oxycodone or other opiates.

Madison police Detective Sgt. Dave Miller said Taylor stole $87,000 worth of the drugs.

A clerk in DeForest called police just before 4 p.m. Tuesday after she saw a man walk into the store with his hood up and head straight to the pharmacy, DeForest police Lt. Dan Furseth said.

Taylor was taken into custody outside the store without incident, Furseth said.

He has since been locked in the Dane County Jail, where law enforcement officials from a number of jurisdictions have been interviewing him about robberies in their areas.

Before Taylor's arrest, police departments worked with pharmacy employees to make sure they knew about the string of robberies and how to handle them, Miller said.

"That cooperation is what brought us to where we are today," he said.

Mark Johnson, owner and chief pharmacist at Janesville's Kealey Pharmacy, said he was happy to hear a suspect was in custody.

As more stores were being robbed, Johnson said he worried, "someday it's going to be us."

Janesville police reached out to Kealey Pharmacy late last year—soon after the robberies started—and told employees about the robber's habits.

The store took precautions, Johnson said, putting up at the front door security camera photos from other robberies and asking people to take off hoods as they walked in.

If a would-be robber tried to demand oxycodone from their pharmacist, Johnson said, the store had dummy bottles of medication to fool them.

"We had an empty bottle that we kept of the drugs he was asking for, and we put fake pills in there," Johnson said.

At the Edgerton Pharmacy and Boutique, which was robbed in March, store manager Jen Tropp said the arrest was a relief.

Taylor confessed to robbing that pharmacy Wednesday, Edgerton Police said in a press release.

There was a concern the pharmacy could be robbed again, Tropp said.

Even with a suspect in custody, Edgerton police Lt. Bob Bolgrihn said he hopes the string of robberies will not inspire others seeking painkillers to hatch a similar scheme.

"That's always a concern," Bolgrihn said. "We don't want to put that idea in people's heads."

Johnson said he is also worried about copycats.

"The drug abuse issue out there with prescription drugs is getting huge," he said. "It's not surprising that there's people like that. It won't surprise me if there were more like that, unfortunately."

Last updated: 10:26 am Tuesday, July 2, 2013

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