, Newburyport, MA

November 12, 2012

arrest made in shell robbery

By Dave Rogers Staff Writer
Newburyport Daily News

---- — NEWBURYPORT — A convicted armed robber was arrested Friday a week after allegedly holding up the Storey Avenue Shell gas station at knifepoint.

Christopher Lee Watkins, 27, of 164 Bridge Road, left, Salisbury, was charged with one count of armed robbery while masked after police pulled his car over on Water Street Friday afternoon. A warrant for Watkins’ arrest had already been issued after police were able to connect him to the robbery through evidence obtained at the scene, videotape surveillance and interviews, according to police.

He is expected to be arraigned tomorrow in Newburyport District Court.

In 2005, Watkins was sentenced to five years at Cedar Junction prison in Walpole after being convicted of robbing the Seacoast Mobil station on Storey Avenue. He was charged with armed robbery while masked and assault with intent to murder with a firearm in connection with that robbery.

Last week, according to police, the suspect entered the Shell station, brandished a knife and ordered the male employee to hand over all the cash in the store. The employee complied with the suspect’s demands and was uninjured. Police said the victim chased after the suspect long enough to see him run down Low Street.

Shortly before the Shell station was robbed, police received word of a similar attempted robbery at Kelly’s Global station on High Street a few minutes earlier. According to police, the Global employee had just closed for the night and was leaving the premises when the suspect approached him holding a knife. The suspect ordered the employee to hand over all money, but the employee was able to convince the would-be thief that all money for the day had been placed in a safe.

Police are still looking into the possibility that Watkins, who is black, may have been involved in an attempted armed robbery at the Global gas station on High Street also by black male, just 15 minutes before the Shell was robbed, according to police.

“He certainly is a person of interest for that robbery, but we’re still working that case,” city Marshal Thomas Howard said.

Howard praised the work of inspectors Michael Sugrue and Matthew Simons, who worked around the clock since the brazen armed robbery to gather enough evidence to obtain a search warrant for his arrest. He also acknowledged the assistance of police officers, including Shawn Eaton, who was at the scene at the time of Watkins’ arrest and those who responded to the initial calls.

“These guys have worked really, really hard to get the information because there was very little at the scene when they went up there,” Howard said. “A real team effort to take it where we are today.”