The tricky part was figuring out which twin allegedly robbed the grocery store in Roy.
Pierce County sheriff’s deputies suspected from surveillance footage it was either Jacob or Justin Johnston, 21-year-old identical twins who lived nearby.
Turns out, the wrong twin was jailed and charged with second-degree robbery before his brother came forward and confessed.
Now, prosecutors have charged Justin Johnston with first-degree robbery for the Sept. 19 holdup of the McKenna Grocery Store at 9111 346th St. S. He is to be arraigned April 17.
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Charges against Jacob Johnston were dismissed.
The confusion started with the clerk who was working the night of the robbery.
She told deputies a man came into the store and stuffed beer into his pants, then tried to leave without paying. She stood in the doorway to block him but was shoved to the floor.
After a brief struggle, the robber fled on a white BMX bicycle, shouting an apology as he pedaled away.
The clerk and deputies thought they recognized the man in the video but couldn’t distinguish which twin it was. Their mother declined to help differentiate, telling deputies to “do their job,” according to charging papers.
So on Oct. 19 deputies arrested Jacob Johnston. He insisted he hadn’t done it, that it was his brother.
Justin Johnston, who was present, initially admitted to the robbery and became “verbally belligerent” when Jacob was placed in a patrol car.
The deputy “opined that Justin Johnston was lying about committing the robbery” because he “knew that the defendant and Justin Johnston usually travel together, that they are extremely tight and that they defend each other,” records state.
Justin eventually told them his brother was the one who robbed the store. Jacob Johnston was held for 72 hours, charged and bail was set at $200,000.
Jacob continued to contend he was innocent. Deputies didn’t believe him — until they listened to some of his phone calls from jail.
So they went to Justin Johnston, and he told them he had robbed the store. He offered deputies the shoes he was wearing during the holdup and said he initially lied because he didn’t want to go to jail.
“Justin Johnston indicated that he was worried what would happen to his brother,” court records show. “Justin Johnston stated he loved his brother very much.”
Part of the confusion between which twin was responsible for the robbery traced back to the clerk’s recollection. She thought the thief rode off on a white bicycle, and Justin Johnston’s bike is black.
She also recalled the robber had good teeth like Jacob Johnston while Justin Johnston has a noticeable chipped tooth.