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Date of Issue: December 28, 2006

Christmas night robbery, chase, crash

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Staff and customers at CVS/pharmacy in Holmes Beach were shocked Christmas night, Monday at about 6 p.m., when an armed robber confronted them.

Holmes Beach police, along with deputies from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and Bradenton Beach police were involved in a high-speed pursuit of the robber on Manatee Avenue when a crash occurred. The suspect and police, including vehicles from the three responding agencies, were involved in the crash.

The suspect was apprehended at the crash scene, requested treatment and was transported to a hospital.

Arrested was John Butler, 45, of no known address.

HBPD Chief Jay Romine said that just before 6 p.m. they received a call about a suspicious person at CVS, at the corner of Manatee Avenue and East Bay Drive, and dispatched an officer to patrol the area. Meanwhile, Butler re-entered the store and robbed the clerk at gunpoint.

He fled on foot and car-jacked a 2006 Toyota at Westbay Cove condominiums just moments before the owner loaded family members into the car. The suspect took off eastbound, crossed the Anna Maria Island Bridge and stopped momentarily - just long enough for officers to begin a felony arrest stop.

But Butler again took off in the car, making it to the Palma Sola Bridge in the 9500 block of Manatee Avenue before he lost control of the vehicle, hit the bridge, spun out and bailed out of the car, Romine said.

At that point, HBPD officer Mike Leonard was stopped at an angle in the road and had exited his vehicle to again attempt to arrest the suspect.

The Bradenton Beach police car then slammed into Leonard’s patrol truck, and the MCSO car slammed into the Bradenton Beach patrol car.

The suspect stripped his clothes, and was about to jump off the bridge when he was apprehended by Leonard.

Butler faces "multiple charges," according to Romine, and Sarasota police were en route to the jail to interview the suspect about a bank robbery.

On Tuesday morning, Jay Frank, public information officer for the Sarasota Police Department, said Butler has been accused of the robbery of the Washington Mutual bank in Sarasota last Friday.

Newsmanatee.com publisher Mike Quinn contributed to this report.