Olean Tops robbery suspect

A man identified by the Olean Police Department as a suspect in a Saturday morning robbery of Tops Friendly Markets. Police are asking anyone who recognizes the man to contact them.

OLEAN — The Olean Police Department is searching for a man who allegedly robbed Tops Friendly Markets and alluded officers — including an off-duty deputy who just happened to be shopping — Saturday morning.

The suspect allegedly entered the West State Street supermarket at approximately 9:30 a.m. and used a note to demand cash from the service desk employee. He then reportedly fled the store after being given an undetermined amount of cash.

“We didn’t find him,” said Olean Police Capt. Robert Blovsky. “We’re working on it. We got a couple tips in so far.”

Blovsky added he was surprised the suspect would commit the robbery during what is a high-traffic time for the supermarket.

Among the many customers shopping was Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Jason Dry, who was off duty and waiting in line behind the suspect, according to Blovsky.

The captain said Dry, thinking the suspect and service desk employee’s interaction was odd, approached the employee to ask if she was OK. She informed him she had just been robbed.

Dry then ran after the fleeing suspect and followed him toward The Pines Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center and Eden Heights Assisted Living and Memory Care, which are located directly behind the supermarket. However, Dry lost the suspect in the woods behind the nursing homes.

Blovsky said the suspect likely headed south toward the Allegheny River Valley Trail but was gone by the time Olean police arrived.

The manhunt involved several agencies, including New York State Police and its K-9 unit, and caused The Pines and Eden Heights to go into lockdown for approximately an hour and a half.

Blovsky said he didn’t believe the lockdowns affected much activity inside the facilities. Staff members said they were aware of the incident but were unsure how it impacted nursing home operations.

Blovsky said the suspect did not brandish a weapon during the robbery, but the suspect’s note did “indicate he would do harm if he didn’t get the money.”

Police are still calculating how much money the man made off with.

Officers released surveillance video images of the man, who was wearing a blue shirt and dark hat. They are asking anyone who recognizes him or has any information on the incident to call them at 376-5677.

The West State Streets Tops was last robbed in November 2016, when a previously convicted robber allegedly threatened a cashier and took $100 cash. The man called police the next morning to confess and was charged with first-degree robbery, a class B felony, and petit larceny, a class A misdemeanor.

(City Editor Danielle Gamble contributed to this report. Contact reporter Tom Dinki at tdinki@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @tomdinki)