Beans lead to federal charges in coffee-shop robberies
Two men charged in a pair of reported robberies at Anchorage coffee shops last week, which ended in a firefight with police during a vehicle chase, now stand accused of federal crimes after prosecutors decided the shops’ inventory amounted to a hill of beans in the case.
Myles Gonangnan, 27, and Shane Twigg, 35, are charged with conspiring to commit, then committing or attempting to commit a robbery interfering with interstate commerce in violation of the federal Hobbs Act. According to documents filed in U.S. District Court, Gonangnan is also charged with using a firearm in connection with the Sept. 25 incidents at Caffe D’Arte and the Heavenly Cup.
Anchorage police said last week that Gonangnan had ridden a bicycle to the two coffee shops, conducting the robberies, before getting into an SUV driven by Twigg. At least one of the suspects fired on police during a subsequent chase on Dimond Boulevard and C Street, prompting APD Officer Noel Senoran to return fire; nobody was struck by the gunfire.
An affidavit supporting the federal charges filed by Brian Arnold, a special agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said that a Caffe D’Arte manager reported that coffee beans used at that store came from Washington state. A manager at Heavenly Cup said their beans came from the Costco warehouse on DeBarr Road, where staff said the beans they sell are grown Outside.
“Based on these statements I can reasonably conclude that both coffee [businesses’] product supply chains include interstate commerce,” Arnold wrote.
Police spokesman MJ Thim hadn’t heard Friday morning that the case against Gonangnan and Twigg had gone federal, a step which usually supersedes state cases.
“There was always a possibility for more charges to be filed,” Thim said.
A spokeswoman for Acting U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder, Chloe Martin, said federal prosecutors often consult with state and local counterparts on cases which might be federally charged. She declined to say who had first proposed the federal charges.
“In this case, it was determined that there were appropriate federal charges,” Martin said.
Arnold’s affidavit said an initial report of the Café D’Arte robbery, on Boniface Parkway near DeBarr Road, came in at about 8:20 a.m. on Sept. 25. An employee told police the suspect – later identified as Gonangnan – allegedly pulled up to a window and told her, “Don’t freak out, I have a gun, give me all your money.”
“She stated he pulled a silver revolver out, put it inside of her window, and began banging it on the side,” Arnold wrote. “She told the other employee to stay in the back, went to the register, and emptied all the cash.”
Multiple witnesses said they saw a suspicious-looking Buick Enclave SUV outside Caffe D’Arte. One man told police the driver “appeared to give the male on the bike a ‘thumbs-up’ at [the] point the coffee stand was robbed.”
After receiving about $1,200, Gonangnan and the Enclave left headed north on Boniface.
About an hour later an employee at the Heavenly Cup on Lake Otis Parkway near 88th Avenue reported an attempted robbery, in which a man wearing a hoodie on a bike pulled up to the counter. When he unzipped the hoodie and the employee saw that he had a holster gun, she said she backed into the rear of the shop; the man then left without taking anything.
An APD officer had spotted a Buick Enclave with a sagging rear end making a U-turn on Boniface at DeBarr at about 7:45 a.m., but wasn’t well-positioned to make a traffic stop. Police began to pursue the Enclave soon after the attempted robbery at Heavenly Cup, when it was spotted headed west on Dimond Boulevard.
Police followed the Enclave on Dimond to the vicinity of C Street, according to Arnold, where shots fired from within the SUV hit an APD vehicle. Its driver, Senoran, returned fire.
Police said they performed a PIT maneuver on the SUV, which Arnold said was stopped near the Costco on Dimond; Twigg was at the wheel, with Gonangnan as a passenger. Officers also found a bike and a handgun in the Enclave, as well as “several bullet holes that appeared to have traveled from the inside of the suspect vehicle outward.”
Twigg told police that he had been abducted at gunpoint by Gonangnan, Arnold wrote, but investigators learned that the two had previously been jailed together. Officers also received surveillance video from Twigg’s girlfriend’s apartment complex, which police said showed Twigg riding a bicycle similar to the one found in the Enclave and Gonangnan walking up to the apartment at about 7:45 a.m.