A man dubbed Baltimore's "Most Wanted" for his alleged role in a string of 50 armed robberies at small businesses across the region has been caught, local and federal law enforcement agents announced Friday.
Stanley Macklin, 35, faces multiple armed-robbery, gun and assault charges after Baltimore police say he "terrorized" convenience stores and coffee shops, robbing a total of 31 businesses in Baltimore County and 19 in the city. They say he would strike during day and night hours.
Baltimore police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts called Macklin "one of the more prolific criminals or bandits" he's ever seen here.
"This guy has done this through fear, intimidation, placing lives and countless people in danger, by placing a gun in their face to take their money and take their properties," Batts said.
Police said they got their break March 7, when the Hamilton News Mart in Northeast Baltimore was robbed and the store owner made out the license plate of the getaway vehicle, which they traced to Macklin. It was a rental car.
Owner Yash Kanani said he had seen the man before, when his store was robbed in December.
"Second time he came back I knew it was him," Kanani said Friday. "But before I could do anything he pulled his weapon on me."
Attempts to reach Macklin's relatives were unsuccessful. A message left with the Baltimore public defender's office, which represented Macklin in a prior case, was not returned.
Police first suspected in January that one man was responsible for the robberies, when they noticed a trend of convenience stores and gas stations being victimized in the city and county, Batts said. Store surveillance images showed that the suspect often wore khaki pants and a blue or dark-colored hoodie.
Soon, a task force of regional officers with help from the FBI were working the case, and detectives gave the suspect a moniker: "khaki pants" bandit.
"As soon as a robber commits three or more robberies, we call it a pattern," Baltimore Police Lt. James Barnes said. "We sit down and discuss and come up with a name just so it's identifiable."
Detectives believe the spree began Oct. 27 at a 7-Eleven in Baltimore, said Baltimore County police Chief James W. Johnson.
Witnesses told detectives the serial robber often acted like a customer, standing in line waiting to be rung up before holding up employees and demanding money. He made out with at least $100 each time and, often, cartons of cigarettes, police said.
"His actions were generally businesslike," Johnson said.
Johnson said the robber fired his gun once into a display case at an Essex 7-Eleven to scare a clerk into moving more quickly. While the robber had not hurt anyone, police worried that the odds of a violent interaction with customers or store clerks were increasing.
Among the stores the FBI says he struck were the Royal Farms in the 3700 block of Fleet St., a 7Eleven in the 5900 block of Pulaski Highway, the High's of Baltimore store in the 8700 block of Liberty Road in Randallstown and a Dunkin' Donuts in the 3700 block of Wilkens Ave.
In late January, the FBI increased a Metro Crime Stoppers reward for information leading to a suspect's arrest from $2,000 to $12,000. City police created a "Most Wanted" distinction for the first time to publicize the reward and gather tips.
The break came at about 2:30 p.m. March 7, when Baltimore police Detective Lamacairoise Taylor arrived at the Hamilton News Mart in the 5400 block of Harford Road to investigate a robbery.
Owner Kanani told police a man with a revolver stole about $1,700 from the register, according to a police report. Kanani said he recognized the suspect from the first time he had looked him in the eye, Dec. 14, during the previous robbery.
The gunman wore a black coat with a gray and white hood, blue sweatpants with a white stripe that ran down the legs, and a black mask. He was carrying a revolver. Witnesses told police he was about 5-foot-10, 170 pounds — a description that fit the "Most Wanted" suspect.
Two customers were in the store at the time. One of them ran into the back room. After the robber gathered money from the register, he took Kanani and the remaining customer to the back room, according to the report.
The suspect took another $50 from a victim and fled, police said. Kanani said he followed him out of the store and saw him get into a silver sedan. As he was on the phone with a 911 dispatcher, Kanani said he rattled off the car's Maryland license tag.
Detectives traced the plate to a silver 2003 Honda registered to Auto Budget LLC, a rental car company in Rosedale.
The person who last rented the car was Macklin.
Macklin fit the description of the serial robber, police said. Court records show that he was on probation for armed robbery after a 2007 conviction.
Police learned Macklin's cellphone number from rental papers and put him under surveillance. On Thursday, officers closed in as Macklin was at a medical facility in the 2300 block of Garrison Blvd. to meet with his probation officer, Johnson said.
Kanani and his sister Deepa, who helps him run the Hamilton News Mart, said they didn't learn of Macklin's arrest until a reporter informed them. They were unaware of the $12,000 reward, and said they haven't been told if they were eligible.
Baltimore police did not respond when asked if anyone would get the reward.
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The Kananis said memories of the robberies often replay in the back of their minds. In each crime, they said, they were unable to push the store's panic button, which triggers an automatic call to police.
"I was here when he was here for the first time," Deepa Kanani said. "I was totally blanked out because I was seeing a gun in front of me."
After the March robbery, the two had their counter walled off with protective glass — a first for the store, which has been operating for at least 60 years. The Kananis have owned it for nearly five years.
"We feel a lot better, but it's not what we wanted to do, but we had no other choice than to do that," Yash Kanani said. "It's not good for us to interact with our loyal customers through glass who have been coming here for years, but that was the only choice he left us to do."