Forest Park cops grab four armed robbery suspects

? Suspects charged in OP and River Forest robberies; Forest Park continues to investigate possible connection to 3 other heists.

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By BILL DWYER

Two adults and a pair of juveniles have been charged with armed robbery and aggravated robbery by Oak Park police in connection with a robbery of the 7-Eleven at 515 Madison St. early Monday morning. In addition, River Forest police have charged the two juveniles in connection with the armed robbery of the White Hen at 7971 W. Lake St.

Charged with armed robbery and aggravated robbery by Oak Park police are Everette T. Silas, 20, and Anthony Spencer, 20, both of Bellwood. A 15-year-old Bellwood juvenile and a 16-year-old Maywood juvenile, who Oak Park police allege did the actual robbery in Oak Park, were also charged and are being held at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center.

The four, who are scheduled to appear today at a bond hearing at the Maybrook Courthouse, are suspected in as many as six other armed robberies over the past month  in River Forest, Forest Park and other near west suburbs, three of which occurred between April 10 and May 22 in Forest Park.

The four were arrested in Maywood by Forest Park police following the robbery in River Forest. After the previous late night robbery in Oak Park and another alleged robbery in Glen Ellyn, the two juveniles allegedly entered the River Forest White Hen Pantry around 4:40 a.m. Monday morning. According to River Forest police, one man allegedly displayed what appeared to be a handgun and demanded money from the clerk. After the clerk turned over the cash, the gunman struck the clerk, and the pair then fled into a waiting van occupied by two other men.

Responding River Forest police dispatched a description of the van and its occupants almost immediately. Four Forest Park police officers, including Sergeant Steve Zanoni, were among the first outside officers to respond, according to Forest Park Police Chief Jim Ryan. Zanoni quickly set up surveillance at Washington Boulevard and First Avenue, and soon after spotted a van matching the description of the vehicle used in the robbery.

Backed up by River Forest and Maywood police, Zanoni pulled the van over moments later at Washington and 12th Avenue in Maywood. Zanoni observed what Ryan termed "a large amount of cash" lying on the rear floor. Police also recovered a weapon, which turned out to be a pellet gun, as well as an additional amount of cash from under the vehicle's front seat.

Following the four occupants' arrest, the victim of the River Forest robbery and battery reportedly positively identified the two men in the back seat, both juveniles, as his assailants.

Earlier on Sunday night, just before 3 a.m., the 7-Eleven at 515 Madison in Oak Park was also robbed at gunpoint by two young men. In between the Oak Park and River Forest robberies, a convenience store in Glen Ellyn was also held up.

"It looked like this crew was very active the last ten days," said Oak Park Deputy Chief of Police Robert Scianna. "We were alerted to them earlier, so we were watching for them."

Police from Oak Park, River Forest, Forest Park and North Riverside worked throughout Monday and into Tuesday morning, conducting interviews and lineups.

Scianna credited Oak Park detectives Bill Cotter and Tim Unzinger with working nearly 24 hours straight on the Oak Park case in order to bring formal charges. During interviews of all four suspects, the two officers allegedly elicited statements from the suspects that led to the Cook County state's attorney approving felony charges against all four.

Forest Park's Ryan expressed satisfaction Monday with the work of four of his officers, including Zanoni, Lt. Stephen Weiler, and patrol officers Grimes and Flores.

"Our guys did a terrific job of putting it together and working closely with River Forest," he said.

Ryan was particularly pleased with Zanoni.

"He's our hero," Ryan said of the veteran officer who he noted was also involved in the arrest of alleged Wrigleyville rapist Paul Cruikshank last New Year's Eve.

Forest Park police suspect that some or all of the suspects were also involved in three armed robberies in Forest Park, including armed robberies of the 7-Eleven, 7749 Roosevelt Rd., on April 10, the White Hen, 7860 Madison St., on May 17, and the Roosevelt 7-Eleven again early on the morning of May 22.

All, according to police, were committed in a similar manner as the other area robberies, including battering the clerk after he turned over cash.

Around 90 minutes prior to the May 17 Forest Park robbery, two men robbed a 7-Eleven near Cermak Road and 17th Avenue in North Riverside in the same manner. Two suspects entered the store, displayed a handgun, and demanded money from the register. After the clerk complied, the gunman struck him in the head with the weapon and both men fled the sore.

According to North Riverside Police Chief Tony Garvey, his department recovered some physical evidence in that robbery, evidence which is currently being evaluated by the State Police Crime lab.

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