FORT WAYNE – A failed attempt to commit back-to-back robberies in Southgate Plaza in April could end with up to a dozen years behind bars for a 61-year-old Fort Wayne man.
James A. Howell, of the 2700 block of Oliver Street, pleaded guilty Friday to robbery and attempted robbery. In exchange for his plea, any prison sentence will be capped at 12 years, according to court documents.
Howell entered Chase bank at 204 E. Pettit Ave. and gave a note to a teller, announcing a robbery and demanding large bills. But the teller wouldnt comply. Instead the teller locked his cash drawer, took the note to his manager and all the tellers walked off the windows to the back of the bank, according to court documents.
Howell left the bank with no money, but tried again.
He headed a few doors down in the Southgate Plaza, to Belmont Beverage, where he tried again. The store clerk, having just completed a transaction, still had her cash drawer open. When he reached around the counter for the drawer, she tried to slam his hand in it, but Howell punched her a couple times in the chest, and made off with $285, according to police and court documents.
Howell left the store, turned left and jogged up the sidewalk, past the Salvation Army as a second clerk from the liquor store chased after him, hollering that the store had just been robbed.
Police had already responded to the earlier robbery, and were on the scene. The Belmont clerk gave a description of the robber, but by the time Howell got to the Blockbuster video store at the end of the plaza, he was caught by two passers-by who heard the clerk yelling.
The two shoppers held Howell there until police arrived, according to court documents.
He will be sentenced next month.