It was a busy week for the Astro fuel station in Hood River and not in a good way.
Starting on Aug. 13, the gas station and convenience store located at 214 Front St. in downtown Hood River was the site of an armed robbery, an unrelated employee theft, and a car accident — all in the span of four days.
Hood River City Police Det. Mike Martin said officers received a call shortly after 10 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 13, of an armed robbery at the Astro station. He said that a lone clerk was closing up the station for the night when he stepped out a side door and was confronted by a man with a gun.
“He met a smaller-statured, believed to be Hispanic male, who put a gun in the clerk’s face and said, ‘Open the safe,’” Martin reported.
The Astro station’s security camera footage caught the gunman in the act, who was dressed almost entirely in black with a ski mask, black-and-white gloves, and brandishing a gray, semiautomatic, magazine-fed pistol of an unknown caliber. The footage clearly shows the robber pointing the weapon at the face of the 19-year-old clerk, whose name police did not reveal.
Martin said the victim told police the gunman ordered him to get back into the service station and open the safe.
Unfortunately for the robber, the clerk did not have the combination to the safe as he was a new employee. The gunman then ordered the clerk to hand over the cash drawer instead, which he did, and was told to stay inside.
“He threatened him that if he came out of the building, that he would die,” Martin said.
According to witness statements, a man dressed in black was seen at around the time of the incident sprinting down Front Street toward the Second Street overpass with a cash drawer in his arms containing approximately $200. The robbery, from start to finish, took less than a minute.
After the robber left, the shaken, but unharmed clerk called 9-1-1. Hood River Police responded to the scene of the crime within a minute or two, as it occurred less than 500 feet from police headquarters. Police searched the area for the suspect but did not find anyone matching the description. The suspect was described as being 5-feet-5 or 5-feet-6 in height, weighing 150 pounds and having a Hispanic accent. Martin reported that the suspect likely did not work at the station as the clerk did not recognize the voice. Other than that, Martin said the police had little other evidence.
“At this point, we’re looking for any info from the public,” he announced. “All information can be directed to me.”
Two days later, Martin said he was visited by an employee from Astro’s corporate office.
“Will Stinson, corporate security contact, came in and I thought he wanted to know more about the robbery,” Martin said.
It turned out Stinson was on his way to question the manager of the Hood River Astro, Daniel Durant, 38, of The Dalles, whom he suspected was responsible for stealing several thousand dollars from the gas station over a period of months.
Martin accompanied Stinson down to the gas station, where Durant was questioned about the money. Martin said Durant told him he had lost a deposit, which was why $7,000 was missing.
“I quickly advised him I didn’t believe his story,” Martin recalled.
Durant then hung his head, according to Martin, and admitted he had taken the money to support an oxycontin and morphine “drug habit that has gotten out of control.” Martin noted that Durant was remorseful and said he had been gradually putting cash back in the till in order to make up for the theft. Durant was given a citation for theft in the first degree, a class C felony.
To top things off for the week, and to offer further proof that bad things do indeed come in threes, a car accident occurred at Astro midday on Friday.
Martin reported a Subaru was driving east on State Street and turned into the Astro station “at a high rate of speed.” The driver of the Subaru struck the back end of a Caprice Classic that was being fueled, which then struck the back end of a parked, unoccupied, Dodge Dynasty. According to Martin, the force of the impact was enough to dislodge the fuel nozzle from the Caprice, but a quick-release feature saved the pump from being ripped out.
Two people were transported from the scene to Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital complaining of neck and leg pain. Martin said no citations were issued for the accident.
Besides the Astro incidents, Martin reported that city police officers were busier than usual last week, but couldn’t point to any specific reason for increase in crime.
“Activity just comes in spurts sometimes,” he explained.