Police connect trio to KFC, McDonald's and Taco Bell takeovers

Portland police have arrested three men in a string of 11 armed robberies of fast-food restaurants throughout the city since the start of this year.

Police say that while it's common in the movies, it's rare in reality for robbers to commit 'takeover-style' robberies Ñ attempting to take control of an entire establishment by ordering people onto the floor.

'We were concerned about the boldness and aggressiveness of these guys,' said Detective Troy King, the lead investigator in the case. 'They always ordered and/or pushed the patrons and employees onto the floor. They'd take control of the entire establishment.'

A Multnomah County grand jury on June 23 indicted Harry Pankey Jr., 47; his brother, Robert Lee Pankey Sr., 37; and Raymond Smith Jr., 40, on 12 counts of robbery. Police believe that the three were primarily responsible for repeated holdups at local chains of KFC, McDonald's and Taco Bell.

All have pleaded not guilty and are being held in a Multnomah County jail until trial, scheduled for Aug. 6. Each count of robbery carries minimum jail time of 70 to 90 months. Prior felony convictions warrant harsher sentences.

King said Harry Pankey has a prior conviction for robbing a KFC in 1983, and the other two have drug histories. King said he believes that all three were motivated to steal money for crack cocaine. Police also expect to make more arrests in connection with the robberies, he said.

The robberies took place from Jan. 29 to May 17. The suspects targeted restaurants in four of the five police precincts nearby where they were staying with family or friends, King said. They lived in Southeast Portland during the time of their arrests.

King said they wore black ski masks and usually gloves Ñ sometimes white garden gloves Ñ and took precautions to change vehicles from incident to incident.

'They would target businesses where they felt they would receive limited resistance, believing they'd get a substantial amount of money and blend in right after the crime,' King said.

He said they waited until the restaurant was about to close, between 8:30 p.m. and 10 p.m., and always showed a gun or implied they had a gun. No one was injured in any of the incidents.

With the exception of the failed attempts, they walked away each time with less than $500 from the cash register or safe, King said. Sometimes, they were caught on security cameras.

Police in May released general descriptions of the suspects, hoping that tips would lead to the suspects' trail. But in the end, it was old-fashioned police work that led to the arrests, King said.

'It started off with officers paying attention to who was driving at nighttime; who was involved in incidents across the city,' King said. 'In putting that information together from different precincts, some incidents lined up. We had some repeat information that came up.'

Once detectives identified their primary suspects, they began around-the-clock surveillance that lasted three or four weeks. They executed five search warrants, which recovered a firearm and other evidence directly related to the robberies, King said.

Then came the arrests, with the help of the FBI and U.S. marshal's office.

Smith had been in custody since May 20 Ñ three days after the last robbery Ñ on an unrelated domestic assault charge. Robert Pankey was arrested June 27 in Hillsboro, and Harry Pankey was arrested June 13 after leaving his home.

Harry Pankey is also charged with robbing the Wells Fargo Bank branch at 3782 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd. alone on June 4.

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