Police charge Vanbuskirk with two January robberies

Late last month when Homer Police put out a BOLO — be on the lookout — for Dellan Vanbuskirk, 30, as a person of interest in several recent Homer crimes, Chief Mark Robl was coy about the crimes police suspected the Anchor Point man had done.

On Jan. 28, police laid out the case against Vanbuskirk and charged him in two separate incidents with first-degree robbery on Jan. 6 of the Short Stop Tesoro Gas Station and on Jan. 16 of a man on the North Fork Anchor River bridge.

Police did not charge Vanbuskirk with a Dec. 28 armed robbery of Fat Olives Espresso, but a criminal complaint for the Short Stop robbery links Vanbuskirk to that crime.

“He’s certainly our prime suspect in that case,” said Homer Police Chief Mark Robl. 

After local media put up web stories and social media alerts on Jan. 22 seeking information on Vanbuskirk, police got a tip that lead Alaska State Troopers to a Mark Lane home in Anchor Point. Troopers arrested Vanbuskirk near there after a chase. He had a warrant for a Dec. 26 charge of driving while license revoked.

Short Stop Tesoro owner Shelly Erickson praised Homer Police and Alaska State Troopers for their investigation.

“These men have been great to work with and we have felt their concern and care for our town. We are blessed to have people who love our community watching out for our town,” she said.

At the Homer Court on Friday afternoon, District Judge Margaret Murphy arraigned Vanbuskirk for the robberies, both class A felonies. Vanbuskirk attended telephonically from Wildwood Pretrial Facility in Kenai. Because Vanbuskirk faces felony charges but has not yet been indicted by a grand jury, no plea was entered. Vanbuskirk also is on felony probation for a 2010 Homer burglary. A petition to revoke that probation was filed on Jan. 25.

Murphy did not grant bail for Vanbuskirk because he was a felon on probation at the time of the crime. Murphy ordered Vanbuskirk not to contact the victims in the Short Stop and Fat Olives Espresso robberies. She set a preliminary hearing for 3:30 p.m. Monday at the Homer Courthouse.

After the Short Stop robbery, Robl said police believed the robber was the same man who robbed the Fat Olives Espresso on Dec. 28. In both cases, witnesses described the robber as a white man about 5-feet-8-inches tall and 150 pounds with light colored hair. The suspect wore a bandana mask in both robberies, but the victims could see his eyes and upper nose. A video for the Short Stop robbery showed the suspect held a gun in his left hand.

Those descriptions tied Vanbuskirk to the Short Stop robbery, Robl said. Vanbuskirk has the same physical appearance as witness descriptions of the robber, he’s left handed and police found the same brand of cigarettes, Marlboro and Camels, in his home as had been taken in the robbery of the Sterling Highway gas station on Baycrest Hill. 

According to an affidavit filed by Homer Police Sgt. Lary Kuhns, while investigating the robberies police identified several men as possible suspects in the case, including Vanbuskirk. Kuhns put together a photo array of suspects with the faces blocked off to show eyes, eyebrows and upper nose — what would be visible behind a mask. He showed the photo line-up to the witnesses, and they all indicated that a cropped photo of Vanbuskirk had facial features consistent with that of the robber, Kuhns wrote in the affidavit.

The criminal complaint said the robber took $300 from Fat Olives Espresso and took $600 from the Short Stop. At the Short Stop, the robber confronted a female employee outside as she emptied trash and escorted her at gun point back inside. There he confronted another employee, a man, and forced them to open a safe. 

The robber also demanded the employees put only packages of Marlboro and Camel cigarettes into a plastic bag. The robber then took the male employee’s pickup truck that had been started before the robbery and drove it a short distance away. Police found the truck still running, but with no footprints nearby, suggesting the robber had gotten away in another vehicle.

In the investigation, Kuhns also learned of another robbery. On Jan. 19, Probation Officer Eric Einerson had been in Homer interviewing parolees and told Kuhns that one parolee, a woman, told him of a recent robbery. Kuhns talked to the woman, and she said a man alleged he had been robbed by Vanbuskirk.

Kuhns talked to that man, and he said that on the night of Jan. 16, he met with Vanbuskirk at a parking lot near the North Fork Road bridge near Mile 15 North Fork Road. The man said Vanbuskirk pointed a large handgun at the man and demanded $200. Kuhns later interviewed Vanbuskirk’s girlfriend, and she alleged Vanbuskirk had stolen a “knock,” or a bag of drugs, from the man, not money.

The girlfriend also told police that about the time of the Short Stop robbery, Vanbuskirk and a male friend said they were going to Anchor Point to get fuel. She said when they came back she saw Vanbuskirk counting money, and that when she asked him where it had come from, he said, “Don’t worry about it.”

After Vanbuskirk’s arrest, Kuhns interviewed him. Vanbuskirk said he was addicted to heroin and methamphetamines and uses about one-tenth gram, or dime, bags of drugs a day, about a $250 daily habit. Vanbuskirk also tested positive for opiates in a drug test.

Vanbuskirk claimed to be sick while being taken up to Wildwood Pretrial Facility on Jan. 23. A jail officer stopped a van near Kasilof to let Vanbuskirk out to vomit. Vanbuskirk did throw up, but also tried to escape while in handcuffs. He gave up after a short chase.

As part of the intake process, inmates get a medical screening, said Laura Brooks, health care administrator for the Department of Corrections, Anchorage. Inmates are asked if they have any history of drug use. Any recent drug tests would also be on file. If someone is in full-blown drug withdrawal, they might go to a local hospital.

“There’s a pretty good chance they’re going to experience some real uncomfortable times,” Brooks said of inmates who might be in withdrawal. “We do have protocols in place to try to ease that.”

Brooks said about 80 percent of Alaska inmates have some sort of substance abuse disorder, either to alcohol or drugs. Inmates either in pretrial or post-conviction can go into treatment programs or special units within a facility.

“I will tell you there are almost always wait lists. We have such a high number of individuals in our system with substance abuse,” Brooks said.

In all, Vanbuskirk faces two felony charges of first-degree robbery, and misdemeanor charges of driving while license revoked, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and third-degree attempted escape.

If convicted of first-degree robbery, he faces up to 20 years in jail and a $250,000 fine.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.

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