Woman slightly injured as second suspect escapes from Feb. 17 robbery.
The Delaware State Police have charged a 27-year-old Dagsboro man after a Feb. 17 robbery during bingo night at the Mamie A. Warren Senior Center between Clayton and Kenton.
Clayton officers and state troopers responded to the center at 1775 Wheatleys Pond Road at approximately 9:25 p.m., after receiving the call about the robbery.
Approximately $1,200 was taken, although a portion of that was recovered during the police investigation.
Investigators learned two black men, both wearing hooded jackets and knit caps with eyehole cut-outs, entered the center through an unlocked rear door.
The men immediately knocked a telephone off the wall, then went to a table near the door where the night’s bingo money was being counted by two volunteers. The suspects took money from the table, but one of the volunteers, Hartly resident Mabel Faulkner, tried to hold onto the center’s money tray.
The man bruised her arm as he wrested the tray from her, Faulkner said.
“People [who had been playing bingo] started running toward them, and when he pulled the tray away, that’s when my arm must have gotten hurt,” she said. “I must have gotten tangled up somehow.”
Along with her injured arm, Faulkner also suffered a head injury, which she thinks happened when the men knocked the phone from the wall.
“I was scared,” said 69-year-old Sarah Roberts of Hartly, one of the other women at the table. “They just started grabbing money. I got up from my chair, but by the time I had gotten around to the other side of the table, they were gone.”
One suspect caught
As the suspects fled, state police said a 49-year-old Newark man who had been playing bingo chased them, trying to see where they were going until police could arrive.
One of the suspects, later identified as Katrial L. West, 27, of Dagsboro, allegedly grabbed a large stick and held it up in a threatening manner. The man stopped the chase, and the suspects ran away. Clayton Police reported two witnesses from the center went after the robbers using their own car.
The Clayton officers later located the witnesses on Mt. Friendship Road and tracked down West, who was arrested after a short foot chase.
Approximately $715 in cash was recovered after West’s capture and from the center’s money tray, which the thieves dropped as they ran from the building.
Marion McNamara, 77, of Smyrna, a longtime volunteer and former president of the senior center’s board of directors, said the suspects must have been familiar with the center’s bingo games.
“It was almost 9:30 and we had just started counting the money,” she said. “We were in the middle of the last game. They must have known about when that would be. They knew where the phone was. They knew where the money was counted.”
Debra Brown, the executive director of the senior center, said, “Everyone was in shock. We’ve been doing this for years, and nothing like this has ever happened.”
After all the commotion was over, the games were allowed to continue.
However, the robbery will affect how the Tuesday and Saturday night games are played in the future, Brown said, adding the center will relocate the area where the money is counted and will make sure doors are locked from the outside.
“We have doors with the panic bars on them that allow that,” she said.
A Delaware State Police trooper will attend the next meeting of the center’s board of directors to discuss safety precautions.
“We’ve also been talking about having a security guard,” Brown said.
Meanwhile, for the players and volunteers who experienced the robbery, the bad memories remain.
“So many people could have been hurt,” said Faulkner. “I still can’t believe it. I’ve been having nightmares. Every time I close my eyes, I see them coming through the door.”
“We were fortunate they didn’t have guns,” said Roberts. “I just keep thinking, ‘Why did they pick a senior center?’ It’s just terrible.”
McNamara said, “I think we’re lucky. It could have been much worse. They could have been armed. We’re lucky they didn’t try to rob everyone.”
One suspect still at large
West was charged with first-degree robbery, wearing a disguise during the commission of a felony, second-degree conspiracy, offensive touching, and menacing, police said. He was jailed at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna after failing to post a $41,500 secured bond.
The other suspect was described as a black man, 5 feet 6 inches to 5 feet 8 inches tall, of average build, wearing a dark zip-up jacket, dark pants and a dark knit cap with eyehole cut-outs.
Anyone with information on the identity of this suspect is asked to call detectives at Troop 3 at 697-2104 or Crime Stoppers at 800-TIP-3333.
Ben Mace is editor of the Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times, a sister paper to the Dover Post. Email Ben Mace at firstname.lastname@example.org