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'Drugstore Cowboy' and accomplice charged with first-degree robbery

Jame Fogle - Courtesy photo
Jame Fogle
— image credit: Courtesy photo

The real-life "Drugstore Cowboy" and his accomplice — a convicted sex offender — were charged last Friday with first-degree robbery by the King County Prosecutor's Office.

Last Tuesday night, Redmond police arrested 73-year-old James Fogle, whose book about a life spent stealing narcotics became the critically acclaimed movie "Drugstore Cowboy," and Shannon Benn, 45, after the two armed men were allegedly trying to steal prescription drugs from Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy at 15840 Redmond Way.

Fogle has spent nearly half of his life behind bars for a myriad of crimes, including robbing pharmacies.

In court last Thursday, King County District Court Judge Arthur Chapman ordered Fogle be held on $500,000 bail, citing his long criminal history.

Fogle's arraignment is set for June 10 at the King County Courthouse. If convicted, Fogle faces 7-8 years in prison, according to Dan Donohoe, spokesperson for the King County Prosecutor's Office.

"That range will go higher as we determine any prior felony convictions," Donohoe said.

Fogle has a criminal history dating to 1954, according to King County court documents. He most recently landed in state prison after a conviction in a 2004 Kent pharmacy burglary. Prior to that, he had been sentenced to a four-year term in a 2001 Snohomish County burglary and five-year prison sentence in a 1992 Pierce County drug conviction. In all, he has been convicted of 14 felonies.

And his latest brush with the law happened in downtown Redmond — blocks from the Redmond Public Safety Building.

Right around the 9 p.m. closing time last Tuesday night, a Pharmaca employee was locking up when Fogle and Been, who was convicted of kidnapping and sodomy in 1986 — pushed their way through after Fogle flashed a gun in his waistband.

Fogle, wearing a pink bandanna and Benn, wearing a dark ski mask, told the three employees at the store to go to the back of the pharmacy where the drugs were stored, according to court documents. During this time, one employee triggered a silent alarm, made her way to the front door and tried to place "paper pamphlets in the door to keep it from closing and locking," according to court documents. The employee saw a woman who was walking by. The employee cracked the front door open and whispered to the passerby to call 911. The employee walked to the back of the pharmacy where the two other employees were tied up. Fogle and Benn tied up all the employees and began filling empty trash cans with drugs.

The woman passerby, unaware of exactly what was going on, called 911, but realized what was happening as she looked through the front glass doors.

Eleven Redmond police officers responded and surrounded the building, according to Redmond police spokesperson Jim Bove.

Officers caught Fogle walking out the back door of the pharmacy with two plastic trash cans full of drugs and determined the weapon he had was a BB gun replica of a semiautomatic handgun, court papers said.

Seconds after Fogle was arrested, Benn allegedly walked out and he was arrested also and officers found a loaded .32-caliber handgun on a shelf about 20 feet from the back door of the pharmacy. Fogle and Benn were arrested without resistance.

The suspects tied up employees who told police "they feared for their lives and that they were concerned that they would be hurt or killed by the suspects," according to court documents.

The three Pharmaca staff members were not injured, but were emotionally shaken up.

Bove said "everything that had to happen right, happened right. We can't say enough about how well everybody handled the situation. Everything fell into place."

Pharmaca declined to identify the three employees in order to protect their privacy, according to front store manager Gary De Lay, who was not working during the robbery, but was called into the store after it happened.

"I wouldn't have expected something like this to happen in Redmond," said De Lay, who has managed the holistic, multi-service store since last November. "The best possible outcame happened. I am so proud of my team. They kept their cool. We train for that all the time and they did exactly what they were supposed to do."

The woman who called 911 — "the pivotal factor" in catching the crooks, according to Bove — declined to talk to the media, Bove said, "but she said she was fearful for the employee who asked her to call 911 and is happy that nobody was injured."

During one of his prison stays in California in the 1970s, Fogle wrote the manuscript for "Drugstore Cowboy," which became the 1989 movie starring Matt Dillon. He became a prison celebrity in 1989 when Portland filmmaker Gus Van Sant made a movie on Fogle's then-unpublished novel. "Drugstore Cowboy," starring Matt Dillon, got rave reviews. The movie was nominated for 11 awards and won four of them, including awards from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics.

The story of the movie follows Bob Hughes (Matt Dillon) and his "family" of drug addicts as they travel across the Pacific Northwest in the early 1970s, supporting their habit by robbing pharmacies and hospitals.

Fogle was believed to be back in action as Centralia police linked Fogle to a brazen heist last year, according to a report by Washington's Most Wanted.

Fogle and another man sawed their way through the pharmacy wall from an adjacent business and stole money and drugs in the January 2009 robbery. Police caught and arrested Fogle's partner in crime, Marvin Flowers-Roscoe March 30, 2010, after linking nasal discharge DNA to him.

"I figured with all the drywall dust, they were probably blowing their nose so I called the state lab and asked if they could get DNA off of snot and the scientists laughed and said 'yeah' and said 'send me the stuff,' so I did," Centralia detective Carl Buster told Washington's Most Wanted.

But Fogle remained on the loose — until yesterday.

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