A man accused of robbing two pizza shops, a Subway store and a supermarket last month pleaded not guilty to six felonies Wednesday, a day after police said he tried to pull a gun on authorities after they had handcuffed him.
Joseph Robert Smith, 40, has been charged with second-degree assault, first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm and four counts of first-degree robbery. The court set Smith’s bail at $500,000.
Officers from the state Department of Corrections, Tacoma police and the U.S. Marshals Service caught up with Smith, who had dyed his hair and was wearing a wig, as he left a home along South Yakima Avenue, court records show. He fled on foot before being arrested and handcuffed.
While being walked to a patrol car, Smith was able get a handgun from his waistband and tilt it toward the deputy U.S. Marshal escorting him, according to court documents.
The Marshal grabbed Smith’s wrist and got him to drop the weapon. It was unclear Wednesday why the gun wasn’t discovered when Smith initially was arrested.
According to charging documents:
Smith allegedly entered a Subway store in the 5000 block of Tacoma Mall Boulevard Sept. 19 and pulled a gun on one of the workers. He cocked the weapon and told her to “get all the money out of the cash drawer.” She complied, and he left.
Three days later Smith allegedly hit the Safeway in the area of South Yakima Avenue and South 56th Street.
A man matching his description asked a cashier for a carton of cigarettes, and when told the store didn’t sell cartons, pulled a handgun, cocked it, and demanded five packs of cigarettes and all the money.
As the cashier went to retrieve the smokes, the robber changed his mind and yelled at her to just give him the cash. The cashier did as he was told, and the man fled.
The store manager followed the suspect out of the store, and several youth chased after the defendant. The manager reported hearing a gun fired in the distance.
Two days later Smith allegedly entered a Pizza Time in the 6300 block of Pacific Avenue South. He reportedly told the owner, “This is a robbery. Give me all your money.”
The owner gave him a wad of cash that was in his pocket. The robber asked if that was all the money in the store, and the owner told him it was. The register was empty.
“I can’t take this from you,” the bandit said, before tossing the cash back to the owner and leaving.
About an hour later Smith allegedly robbed the Pizza Hut in the 5300 block of Pacific Avenue South.
Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said Smith took about $1,000 total, and could face more than 30 years in prison for the armed robberies.
Smith previously pleaded guilty to robbery in 2008.
In that case, he was convicted of taking items from a Rite Aid store on Pacific Avenue without paying and got into the passenger side of a vehicle that hit a security guard who was chasing him, court records state.
The driver, Smith’s girlfriend at the time, told police he pressed his foot on the gas peddle, and that the guard jumped on the hood and rolled off as they left the parking lot.
She hadn’t realized he had shoplifted vitamins from the store, she said.
Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268