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Suspect in pizza place robberies arrested, makes court appearance
Yuma police nabbed a man Wednesday who is suspected of robbing three pizza parlors at gunpoint over the past three days.
“He jumped several fences into yards trying to evade us, but we had so many officers in the area we were able to set up a perimeter and take him into custody in about 10 minutes,” said Sgt. Clint Norred, a spokesman for the Yuma Police Department.
Norred said a detective spotted the suspect, identified as 29-year-old Buck Bartee of Yuma, at approximately 8:06 a.m. in the 2500 block of South Arizona Avenue, which is where Wednesday morning's foot pursuit began.
Bartee was holding a handgun while he was running from detectives and other officers who were responding to the area.
According to Yuma police, there have been three armed robberies of local pizza establishments in the past three days by a suspect with a similar description. The first of the armed robberies happened at about 10 p.m. on Sunday night at Papa John's Pizza, 2816 S. 4th Ave.
The second robbery happened shortly before 9 p.m. on Monday night at Little Caesar's Pizza, 680 W. Catalina Drive. He struck again at about 8 p.m. on Tuesday night at Papa Murphy's Pizza, located at 2951 S. Pacific Ave.
“During the three robberies, he displayed a handgun and demanded money from the cashier,” Norred said. No injuries were reported.
All three of the pizza parlors are take-out type establishments, according to Norred.
Norred said as the investigation continued, officers developed information Tuesday night about Bartee as a possible suspect, and where he may be located. At approximately 10:30 p.m., officers responded to Bartee's apartment in the 2900 block of South Palo Verde Lane.
“We developed enough information to determine who he was and where he was,” Norred said.
As a precaution, the Yuma Police Department Special Enforcement and Hostage Negotiation Teams were called to the scene and the area was secured, which included the evacuation of nearby apartments.
Norred said the Special Enforcement Team made entry into the apartment after a few hours of not being able to make contact with Bartee, but he was not inside.
Yuma police officers and detectives continued to patrol the area throughout the night and into Wednesday morning looking for Bartee, which is when he was spotted.
Bartee was taken into custody at 8:18 am in the 700 block East 26th Place and the handgun was recovered nearby. The surrounding schools were locked down as a precaution during the foot pursuit for a brief period of time.
Bartee made his initial appearance in Yuma Justice Court later Wednesday afternoon, appearing before Justice of the Peace Greg Stewart, who informed him that he was being held on three counts of armed robbery.
Stewart also set Bartee's bail at $1.5 million, which was $500,000 for each of the three charges against him. His next court date is Friday at 1 p.m., where he will be informed whether any charges have been filed against him.
During his brief court hearing, Bartee asked the judge to be heard on bail, asking if it could be lowered, saying that the $1.5 million bond was “ridiculous.” The judge refused.
Bartee also asked to be released to a third party saying he had a job and needed to work in order to buy his wife a condominium, and that his wife shouldn't be punished for his action. Again the judge refused the request.
James Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6854.