Three arrested in armed robbery

By Abby Morris
Star Staff
amorris@starhq.com

   Three males, aged 20-21, were arrested late Thursday night and early Friday morning by investigators and charged in connection with the armed robbery of a city business which occurred on Wednesday.
   According to police, two male subjects entered the Road Runner Market on West G Street around 5 a.m. on Dec. 10 and demanded money from the employees. One of the subjects brandished a gun and yelled obscenities at the employees, according to reports.
   Allan Curtis Stafford, 21, 100 West H St., Apt. 7; Joshua Daniel James, 20, 202 Buffalo Mountain Lane, Apt. 202, Unicoi; and Michael A. Surplis, 20, 312 Harmon Drive, Rogersville, were all charged with one count of aggravated robbery.
   At the time of the robbery, a witness saw two male subjects run and get into a small white vehicle which was described as having a loud muffler that was driven by a third male subject.
   According to Elizabethton Police Department Detectives Ed McGee and Matt Bowers, an informant notified the investigators where the vehicle could be located. At that time, McGee, Bowers and Detective Jason McCall drove to the Buffalo Ridge Apartments in Unicoi County near the Buffalo Valley Golf Course and located the suspected vehicle.
   Bowers stated that the investigators then used the temporary tag on the vehicle to trace it back to the owner. He further stated that the vehicle came back registered to the mother of a female subject who had been involved in a case which had previously been investigated by McGee and was also known to be the girlfriend of James.
   At the time of the robbery, investigators with the EPD sent information about the suspects and the vehicle they were seen fleeing the incident in to the Johnson City Police Department to see if either description matched with any descriptions given in the recent string of armed robberies in that city. According to McGee and Bowers, the description of the car matched up with an incident that occurred in Johnson City, but not an armed robbery.
   According to McGee and Bowers as well as reports from the Johnson City Police Department, the vehicle matched the description of an incident which occurred at a Johnson City convenience store at 3211 South Roan St., where a male subject identified as James had fired five shots at three victims as they turned into the parking lot of the store, one of which struck the vehicle the victims were in. Johnson City investigators advised McGee, Bowers and McCall that they had warrants for James charging him with three counts of aggravated assault stemming from that incident.
   "That linked the car from West E. Street to this shooting in Johnson City and we knew it had to be the same person," McGee said.
   Once McGee, Bowers and McCall found out that Johnson City had warrants on James, they decided to attempt to take James into custody. "Basically what we did was wait for the Johnson City Police Department to fax copies of their warrants on Mr. James to Unicoi County (Sheriff's Department)," McGee said. Bowers added "Then Unicoi County (Sheriff's Department) came and helped us take Mr. James into custody."
   After James was arrested and taken to the Washington County Detention Facility, investigators interviewed him and he admitted his part in the armed robbery of the Road Runner Market on West G Street and told investigators who the other two individuals that were involved were. Surplis was also arrested at the same time as James by Unicoi County Sheriff's Department officers on outstanding warrants. The third was arrested by EPD investigators and taken to the Carter County Jail. Later, Surplis and James were both transported to the Carter County Jail.
   "The wheelman, the driver, was Joshua James. Allan Stafford, by his own statements, was the gunman. Michael Surplis just went in and stood behind Stafford as a sort of lookout," Bowers said. "The handgun (a .38 caliber revolver) that was used in the robbery was recovered. We also recovered both bandanas and the hat that was worn by the one. The suspects also identified the gear that they wore."
   All three subjects are scheduled to appear in General Sessions Court on Monday.