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Alleged ShopKo robber arrested in Minnesota

Earlier in the week St. Paul police and U.S. marshals picked up 22-year-old Jesse Edward-Montoya Rasmussen, Minneapolis, allegedly responsible for over 50 drugstore thefts in Minnesota and Wisconsin, including in August at ShopKo in River Falls.

River Falls police investigator Chuck Golden has worked the case and been in close contact with various law enforcement agencies, federal prosecutors and the FBI.

Rasmussen, arrested before on similar charges, had previously gotten a lawyer and bailed out. This time he's being held on $53,000 bail in Ramsey County Jail in St. Paul.

Golden believes Rasmussen and another unidentified man walked into ShopKo on an early August afternoon. The other man distracted the male pharmacist while Rasmussen walked into the pharmacy and took three large bottles of codeine-laced cough medicine valued at $94.39.

When a female technician confronted Rasmussen, he allegedly told her in an intimidating manner that no one was going to stop him from getting his medicine. She backed off and the two suspects quickly left.

Golden said on that same day, the pair also cased two other local pharmacies but didn't rob them: Walgreen's on North Main Street and Freeman Drug on Main Street downtown.

Golden said Freeman Drug owner Leah Gavin even recalls talking to Rasmussen while the other guy stood by the back door. Clear surveillance video from Walgreen's proved useful in showing that Rasmussen and the other suspect also cased that store.

"There's no question that it's him," Golden said about Rasmussen.

Golden figures the suspects only robbed ShopKo in River Falls because the cough medicine was visible on shelves. "They can hit it and get out fast," he said.

Besides River Falls, Golden said it appears Rasmussen and an accomplice also stole codeine-cough medicine from Hudson's Wal-Mart pharmacy and cased the Target pharmacy without taking anything. He added that Rasmussen is believed to have stolen pepper spray from Hudson's Fleet Farm.

Golden said Rasmussen and his accomplices also started spraying pepper spray in the faces of pharmacists in Minnesota before stealing cough medicine.

The second person allegedly with Rasmussen when ShopKo was robbed hasn't been caught. Another male suspect with Rasmussen on other pharmacy thefts was caught and allegedly implicated Rasmussen.

Pharmacies have been hit in the Twin Cities and also as far away as Albert Lea and Rochester.

Golden believes the River Falls robbery is a "solid case" but as of yet the St. Croix County district attorney hasn't filed charges against Rasmussen. The investigation is ongoing.