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Trooper stops for water, halts robbery

Suspect nabbed after fleeing from CVS in Newton

A thirsty State Police trooper walked into a drugstore in Newton yesterday looking for a bottle of water and ended up arresting a man who was allegedly robbing the pharmacy while armed with a box cutter.

Trooper Jon MacKinnon told reporters yesterday he entered the CVS on Route 9 eastbound near Elliot Street around 9:30 a.m., purchased a bottle of water, and was walking out when a woman approached him.

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“ ‘There’s a man at the pharmacy counter who is acting very weird,’ ’’ MacKinnon said the woman told him. “Those were her exact words.’’

MacKinnon headed toward the rear of the store where the pharmacy is located. As he approached, he saw the suspect behind the counter wearing a hooded sweatshirt with the hood pulled up over his head.

“It seemed quite unusual,’’ said MacKinnon, who was in uniform. Then, he said, a CVS employee approached him and provided more information.

“ ‘He’s got a knife,’ ’’ the employee told MacKinnon, who is 39 and a seven-year veteran.

MacKinnon stepped behind the counter, pulled out his service weapon and ordered the man to show the trooper his hands, an instruction that the suspect ignored.

“He turned, and looked at me real quick,’’ MacKinnon said, “and then made a dash in the other direction.’’

As the man ran, MacKinnon said he decided to holster his service pistol and use less-than-lethal means to arrest him. MacKinnon said he pulled out a pepper spray canister and sprayed the man in the face, slowing the suspect down, but not stopping him.

The suspect, identified as Stephen A. Garland, 27, made it to a Toyota Venza parked in front of the CVS. MacKinnon said he splashed Garland in the face a second time and was able to take him into custody.

Garland faces charges including armed robbery and assault and battery on a police officer.

“I ain’t done nothing; I’m innocent,’’ Garland said as he was loaded into an ambulance at the State Police barracks yesterday en route to St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center for an examination.

Garland, who has had addresses in Brockton and Lynn, is expected to be arraigned Monday in Newton District Court. The car was reported stolen in Dorchester yesterday morning, but was undamaged. State Police said the owner had left the keys in the ignition.

After the arrest, a bag of painkillers was recovered from Garland and a box cutter was found in the car. A CVS security video also showed Garland brandishing a box cutter at CVS workers, MacKinnon said.

CVS employees at the Newton store referred a reporter to the corporate headquarters in Rhode Island. A company spokesman e-mailed a statement thanking MacKinnon for his quick action. Counseling was made available for employees who requested it, the company said.

“We want to express our heartfelt gratitude to Trooper MacKinnon for his actions at our Newton pharmacy today,’’ the company said. “His quick response and professionalism helped prevent the robbery without resulting in any harm to our customers and employees.’’

MacKinnon said he had made numerous arrests in his career but never one when he simply walked into a store when a crime was in progress.

“You always think about running into a bad guy and coming out with a happy ending,’’ he said. “I’d say in this situation that’s the case. Nobody got hurt, and we were able to get everything back. And the bad guy goes back with us.’’

John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com.
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