Man Accused of Robbing Two Thurston County Stores Was on Probation for Previous Thefts


A 29-year-old Lakewood man accused of robbing two Olympia convenience stores March 11 is being held in Thurston County jail in lieu of $75,000 bail.

Vernon L. Ward attended his preliminary appearance in Thurston County Superior Court on Wednesday, March 22.

Olympia police arrested him Tuesday, March 21, on suspicion of two counts of first-degree robbery, one count of second-degree burglary and one count of first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.

He's one of two people who police allege robbed two stores on the west side and burglarized a downtown coffee stand. The second suspect had not yet been arrested, according to Olympia police.

Judge Sharonda Amamilo found probable cause for the alleged crimes and set the bail amount. In doing so, she reasoned Ward may commit a violent crime if released on his personal recognizance.

Ward was previously convicted of several crimes in Pierce County from 2009 to 2011, according to court records. His history includes first- and second-degree robbery, third-degree theft, residential burglary and more. He was recently released by the Washington State Department of Corrections but remained on probation, court records show.

Olympia Police Lt. Lower said detectives arrested him at a Lakewood probation office and seized a bag from him. After executing a search warrant, detectives reportedly found a firearm and ammunition as well as baggies of meth plus fentanyl powder and pills in the bag.

The investigation

A probable cause statement describes the investigation into the alleged crimes from the perspective of law enforcement.

An Olympia officer responded to a convenience store on the 1700 block of Evergreen Park Drive Southwest at 5:24 a.m. March 11. A store employee reportedly told dispatch a man and a woman arrived in two cars and robbed the store.

Upon arrival, the officer found one of the two cars, a pick-up truck, parked outside the store. He checked the license plate and determined it had been stolen in Federal Way, according to the statement.

The officer then spoke with the employee. He reportedly told the officer he walked out from a back room and saw the man, later identified as Ward, walk behind the counter toward a register.

The employee reportedly began to tell Ward to leave when the woman pointed a handgun at him. She allegedly ordered him to get down on the ground, open another register and then return to the ground again.

Ward and the woman then left the store in a white sedan and left the truck behind, according to the statement.

The officer later observed store surveillance footage that corroborated the employee's account. The statement says the white sedan appeared to be waiting for the man and woman outside the store, indicating there may have been a getaway driver.

Dispatch alerted Olympia police to another reported robbery at 5:43 a.m. at a store on the 2000 block of Harrison Avenue Northwest.

The statement indicates a man and woman arrived at the store in a white car and stole money from the register while armed with a handgun. Their descriptions matched those of suspects in the first robbery.

Police believe the same suspects may have been involved in a hit-and-run collision that occurred at the intersection of Marvin Road and Martin Way East, according to the probable cause statement.

In that incident, a man reportedly pointed a gun at the reporting party. The description of the suspect's truck matched the one seen at the stores.

During Ward's Wednesday preliminary hearing, Deputy Prosecutor Wayne Graham said police believe the same two people also burglarized a coffee stand on the 1100 block of Plum Street. However, the probable cause statement does not include information about that burglary.

Lt. Lower previously said the owner found the stand ransacked with windows open and computer items missing. He said surveillance footage led detectives to determine the robbery suspects burglarized the stand as well.

Ward's arraignment has been scheduled for April 4.