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Smoke n’ More take down similar to recent Port Arthur armed robberies

Port Arthur Police are again investigating a violent armed robbery where multiple assailants barged into a place of business, pointed guns at an innocent clerk and escaped with money under the cover of darkness.

Sgt. Shannon Meaux said three men with guns robbed Smoke n’ More Friday night, getting away with cash.

Officers were dispatched at 7:03 p.m. in reference to the robbery, which had just occurred at 3248 Gulfway Drive.

Meaux said investigators determined three males entered the store brandishing handguns and demanding money before fleeing the scene with an undetermined amount of money and other property.

No injuries were reported.

Police have not responded to questions asking if any shots were fired or for a description of the gunmen.

Multiple calls and an email left by Port Arthur Newsmedia Monday and Tuesday with PAPD’s Community Response Unit and Police Chief Tim Duriso were not returned by press time.

The recent string of armed robberies reported in Port Arthur appears to have begun at Sunshine Groceries, 5899 W. Port Arthur Road, on the evening of Dec. 3. According to police, three men brandished handguns and demanded money from employees.

On the night of Dec. 15, multiple suspects entered Stop & Drive, 2500 Gulfway Drive, and came away with an undetermined amount of money.

A woman inside Willie’s Washateria, 2201 Gulfway Drive, was robbed at gunpoint at 10:44 a.m. Dec. 22. PAPD Det. Sadie Guedry said she did not know the number of robbers who entered the business, but said they were wearing masks and one was armed with a gun.

Police are also searching for two men who robbed a patron at gunpoint Dec. 22 at the game room located inside Truong Washateria, 648 Ninth Ave. Two masked men, one with a weapon, entered the business at 7:39 p.m., and the one with the gun approached a patron, held him at gunpoint and demanded money.

No injuries have been reported, and no arrests have been made public. Detectives have not said publicly if they believe all or some of the robberies are related.

Port Arthur Newsmedia has asked police if any other armed robberies have taken place recently that have not been reported or if efforts are being made to warn local night clerks about possible enhanced risks. Those questions have not been answered.

In a interview with Port Arthur Newsmedia in late December, Mayor Pro Tem Charlotte Moses said the pandemic is causing stress in a number of ways, and some who are dealing with it may act in desperation, leading to crime.

A high rate of unemployment in the city, which could lead to episodes of mental illness not being treated, is not helping matters either, she suggested.

“If you do a timeline where you see spikes and increases, they’ll possibly see the pandemic has caused people to act violently,” Moses said.

She also declined to name COVID-19 as the sole culprit for the crimes.

“There is nothing that indicates to one thing that’s a problem,” she said.

District 3 Councilman Thomas Kinlaw III also suspects those having to stay at home during the pandemic may become restless.

“More people are at home, around the house, clustered together because of the curfew we had in place before,” Kinlaw said. “That could be some of the things contributing to the string of crimes.”