Homeless man faces 230 years behind bars for armed robberies

WHEATON, Md. (WJLA) - A local homeless man is facing 230 years behind bars following a string of armed robberies throughout downtown Wheaton.

On Saturday January 18, Andrea Romero-Rivas was managing the front counter at the Chicago Bakery store along the 11200 block of Georgia Avenue. Around 7:20 p.m., a man entered the pastry shop and ordered two cupcakes. As Romero-Rivas boxed his treats, the man, later identified as Kiarre Sanders, 40, ripped-off his gloves, pulled-out a black handgun and said, "Shut up and give me the money," charging documents allege.

Romero-Rivas, whose managed the bakery for the last five years, bolted to the back of the store, screaming for help.

"I saw the gun and I was terrified. I just felt like, 'This is it, I'm done.' So something in me was just saying, 'run, run, run,'" Romero-Rivas remarked to ABC7.

With Romero-Rivas cooped-up in the back office dialing 911, Sanders reportedly forced a second female employee to the cash register. With a long barreled revolver pressed against the back of her head, the money drawer popped open. Police say Sanders placed $1,600 dollars in his bright blue hoodie pockets and sprinted out of the store, evading capture.

"He could have just pulled on the trigger and shot me, but thank God he didn't," Romero-Rivas added.

Only five days before, Montgomery County Police responded to the Wheaton BP, at the corner of University Boulevard and Amherst Avenue, for an armed robbery with a similar suspect description.

Around 8:45 p.m. on Monday January 13, a man, later determined to be Sanders, walked into the gas station, showed the evening clerk a handgun and said, "Open the drawer, open the drawer." Video surveillance shows the clerk visibly shaken, stuffing $150 in cash and six cartons of Newport cigarettes in a crumpled blue and white shopping bag.

"This isn't civilized behavior. I mean he's threatening my cashier with a deadly weapon. Quite frankly it pisses me off," gas station owner Jim Kurtz explained.

Oddly enough, during the hold-up, the clerk said Sanders was speaking to someone on his cell phone. The 40-year-old reportedly heard saying, "This b**** is taking too long, I oughtta shoot her."

Police say Sanders didn't keep to his word, ordering the clerk to the back office unharmed, as he exited the store on foot.

"That's threatening somebody's life. I just have no forgiveness for that at all. He should be locked-up and left there," Kurtz remarked.

Sanders' streak of havoc, investigators allege, started on Thursday January 9, outside Elbe's Beer & Wine. A customer was leaving the liquor store, located in 2500 block on University Boulevard West, when a gunman approached him in the parking lot. According to court documents, Sanders placed a black revolver against the victim's stomach and said, "I'm going to put a cap in his head if he does something."

The victim, an adult male, emptied-out his wallet - all $77 worth. As Sanders walked away from the scene, the victim heard him say, "Don't worry, I got his tag number so we are good."

Due to the sudden spike in armed robberies, Montgomery County's Wheaton Special Assignment Team (SAT) placed plain clothes police officers throughout downtown Wheaton. On Tuesday January 21, officers arrested Sanders, who later admitted to the Chicago Bakery and Wheaton BP robberies.

According to charging documents, the Newark, New Jersey native sports a lengthy rap sheet. His prior arrests include: robbery, burglary, theft, terroristic threats, criminal sexual contact, carjacking, kidnapping, assault on police, resisting arrest, trespassing, and drug possession. Sanders faces 13 criminal counts for his alleged Wheaton crimes. If convicted, he could face 231 years behind bars.