One man is in custody after an early-morning robbery at knifepoint in downtown Fort St. James.
Nineteen-year-old Keenan Sam will face a robbery charge, and has been remanded in custody until June 14, with bail set at $500.
At 5:13 a.m. on Tuesday, May 31, owner/operator Lynette Plamondon of The Red Fox Bistro was reportedly robbed while alone in her store.
The perpetrator came in and asked for some sandwiches, and then asked for a drink, according to Plamondon.
She said she turned her back as she went to open the cooler and get the drink, when the thief jumped over the counter and cornered her with a knife.
“He said ‘Give me all your money’,” said Plamondon.
The man allegedly took $200 in cash, mostly in large change and a few bills, none of which had been recovered at press time.
He then asked her where the phone was, which he took and he also grabbed her cell phone when he saw it sitting on the counter.
She said the perpetrator then went around the counter, ran out the door and in front of Overwaitea, disappearing behind the building.
Plamondon said she was “freaking out” a bit in her head, but went next door to the bakery to use their phone and call the RCMP.
She then went looking for him in her car, but did not see him or talk to anyone who had spotted someone matching the description.
Plamondon gave the RCMP a description and said she had recognized the young man, who she remembered had visited the cafe to speak to her employee on a previous occasion.
Her description and recollection of those details led police to arrest Sam, who appeared in court later in the afternoon.
In a first court appearance, Keenan Sam appeared agitated, looking from the prisoner’s box to his girlfriend in the courtroom.
In his next court appearance on June 14, 2011, he will also be appearing on charges of possession of narcotics and theft under $5,000 related to a previous incident.
Outside the court room, his girlfriend Brandi Bleeks, stood up for Sam, who she described as “really likeable and easy-going” and very helpful.
“He’s a really good father, I want people to know that side of him too,” she said.
Bleeks said she and Sam were living together until recently. But she kicked him out a couple of weeks ago after things started to go missing from the house and she suspected he might be using drugs again, saying he had issues with crack cocaine in the past.
Bleeks said she was “hoping it would be an eye-opener” for Sam, who had been a stay-at-home dad with their 17-month-old son Ian.
Sam had still been coming by the home to check on their son since she had asked him to leave.
While Bleeks acknowledged it is Sam’s choice to use drugs, she feels he is powerless against them once he does.
“It’s just out of control, the drugs,” she said.
Bleeks is hopeful his time in custody will allow him to get some distance from his addiction and get him back on track. She said while it is not an excuse for his behaviour, Sam has had a difficult past.
She cites a childhood spent bouncing between foster homes and extended family due to his mother struggling with substance abuse problems of her own as unresolved issues from Sam’s past.
But Bleeks also feels for the victim of the alleged robbery.
For her part, Plamondon said the alleged incident has left her with feelings of distrust, calling it “an invasion and a threat on my life.”
She will be changing some of how she does business from now on during the early morning hours when things are quiet, keeping the doors locked until more people are around.
“Now I will have to judge people, “ she said.
The unfortunate lesson she said she has learned is “don’t try to be nice and don’t let anybody in.”