The peaceful routine of pumping gas and washing car windows got jolted early last Wednesday evening at the Tesoro gas station in Bingen.
Just after 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 18, a man walked into the gas station, located at 102 E. Steuben, and demanded cash from the clerk.
"A white male walked into the Tesoro service station wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt and covered his face with what appeared to be a blue surgical mask. He was armed with a handgun," said acting Police Chief Bruce Brending of the Bingen-White Salmon Police Department. "The suspect ordered the clerk to empty the cash register and put the money in a bag. The clerk followed the suspect's instructions, and the suspect left on foot."
Bill Hunsaker, president of Hunsaker Oil, which owns the Tesoro station, said the employee on duty handled the dangerous situation well.
"He was not too shook up -- the guy was in and out of there in about a minute and a half," Hunsaker explained. "He took care of it exactly the way he should have done. Between your life and his, the cash is a small thing."
Hunsaker said the employee called 9-1-1 as soon as the thief left.
The man got away with an undetermined amount of cash.
Brending said the suspect did not point the gun at the clerk.
"He displayed the weapon, but did not threaten or menace him with it," Brending explained.
Hunsaker said nothing like this has happened before at their gas stations.
"It's a very scary situation," Hunsaker said. "It's the first time and hopefully the last, but I wouldn't bet on it. I hope they catch him, and I hope this doesn't happen to someone else."
Bingen Mayor Brian Prigel said the crime was "disturbing," especially in a small town.
"The good news is that no one got hurt, but this is a disturbing event that we've not had here in a long time," Prigel said. "I hope they catch the individual quickly; this is not something we want to see re-occur."
Klickitat County Sheriff Chris Mace said armed robberies are rare in Klickitat County.
"You get `gas and dash' and `smash and grab' crimes, but to actually confront somebody in an armed situation is pretty rare here," Mace explained. "Crimes involving guns are not an unusual thing in this county, but using a weapon in a robbery is pretty unusual. We have more assaults with weapons than we do actual robberies."
Mace said the last incident he could recall where there was an armed robbery in the county was the attempted holdup of the Sterling Savings Bank in White Salmon in December 2000.
In that case, a man from The Dalles told the bank's clerks he had a gun. The thief was caught coming out of the bank with a satchel filled with cash when Sgt. Bruce Brending of the Bingen-White Salmon Police Department confronted him with a leveled shotgun and took him into custody. The thief had a 9mm handgun in his possession.
In the Tesoro robbery, Brending said there is video from a surveillance camera that is being reviewed to determine whether any images can be enhanced to assist in identifying a suspect.
Brending encouraged anyone with information regarding the robbery to contact the Police Department at 493-1177.