Four arrested for armed robbery

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Waterloo Regional police have arrested four Kitchener men in connection with the string of armed robberies that hit the primarily student-populated neighbourhood adjacent to Wilfrid Laurier University in January and February.

According to Olaf Heinzel, public affairs co-ordinator for Waterloo Regional Police Services (WRPS), the arrests took place between March 2 and 10, with the official announcement coming from police on Tuesday.

“We can’t get into the specifics of how police do their job but it was through thorough investigation, following up on leads, being very diligent and vigilant in their investigation,” said Heinzel of how police manage to track down the four men that were arrested.

The crimes in question occurred in five separate incidents just minutes from WLU. Three incidents happened on a weekend in early January — with two of the muggings happening to the same victim — while the second two took place nearly a month later.

All the crimes had a similar description: a group of men approaching a lone victim late at night and demanding cash, wallets and cell phones while brandishing a firearm. All five incidents took place in vicinity of Albert, Hickory and Hazel streets just north of Wilfrid Laurier University.

According to Heinzel, police have learned that the firearm used in the robberies was a fake.

The four men facing charges have been identified as 19-year-olds Michael Ayalew and Zachary Johnston, a 17-year-old male who cannot be named as he is a young offender, and an 18-year-old male who was 17 at the time of the robberies. All hail from Kitchener.

“All of them are facing [charges of] robbery using a firearm and three are charged with using an imitation firearm while committing an offence,” said Heinzel. “The 18-year-old male was charged with robbery using a firearm but not charged with using the imitation firearm.”

Ayalew was in court Tuesday, while the other three accused had already had court dates and been released with further scheduled court appearances. According to Heinzel it is too early to tell the nature of the sentences the four men will be facing should they be found guilty.

“That’s a decision with for the courts and it depends on the circumstances,” he said. “It depends on whether the person has been previously charged, and those are not decisions police make.”

Under the criminal code of Canada, the maximum penalty for robbery with a firearm is life imprisonment.

Heinzel said that though the WRPS is hopeful they will be able to recover some of the stolen property, because most of what was taken was cell phones – which are likely to have been sold by now – and cash, returning what was taken seems unlikely.

“I believe one of the victims was contacted by the investigators and asked about it but unfortunately it doesn’t look likely that they will be able to get their property back,” he said.

As of press time, The Cord confirmed that at least one of the victims had been contacted by police.

With the supposed perpetrators now facing charges, Heinzel is hopeful that tensions in the student neighbourhood will subside.

“We would anticipate that there were many people that were anxious about these incidents occurring,” he said. “We’re hopeful that with the announcements of the arrests and the charges it will make them relieve some of their concerns and make them more comfortable when they’re out walking around in the evenings.”

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