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Charges filed in armed robbery case

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Torres2 / 2

PIPESTONE -- Two men arrested after allegedly robbing a grocery store at gunpoint made a first appearance Thursday in Pipestone County District Court.

Bail was set at $30,000 each for Luis Antonio Torres, 21, and Ronald Alexander Hernandez, 25, both of Worthington. Each was charged with first- and second-degree aggravated robbery and theft.

Details of the robbery were released Thursday when the criminal complaints were filed with the district court. Two men, the complaint states, entered Cid's Latino Grocery Tuesday afternoon. One was wearing a Halloween mask, the other a black bandana on the bottom half of his face and sunglasses. The clerk said the man wearing the mask pointed a handgun draped with a black cloth at her and told the other man to take the money from behind the counter. The man with the mask stated he would kill the clerk if she called the cops after they left.

After they left, a customer entered the store and the clerk said she had just been robbed. The customer reported seeing two men drive away in a white 4-door vehicle. The description was given to authorities, and a deputy located a vehicle matching the description on a gravel road. He gave chase for several miles at speeds up to 100 miles per hour before the vehicle spun into a ditch.

The men ran through a backyard and into a corn field while the deputy stayed with their vehicle until back-up arrived. As he waited, a school bus pulled up and dropped a child off at the farm site. The deputy escorted the child into the house and asked the occupants to lock the doors and stay inside.

Both men were found and arrested within a short time. In the vehicle, authorities found more than $4,900 in the trunk in a Cheetos bag behind a side panel.

Torres allegedly told authorities they had thrown the handgun, which he claimed was a plastic toy, out the window, along with clothes they had worn during the robbery.

Torres said, the complaint states, that he had borrowed the vehicle from a friend. An incident report from Nobles County states a woman from Worthington had reported her vehicle stolen Tuesday night, but the responding officer determined no theft had occurred -- that the vehicle had been loaned with permission but was impounded in Pipestone County.

During an interview, Torres allegedly told a deputy he and Hernandez had come to Pipestone to find some "bud" and smoke a little and he had never done anything like this before. MNCIS, the Minnesota court document reporting system, shows Torres has previous convictions for driving while impaired and theft in Nobles County, and is on probation until March 2010.

Torres said they left Worthington and stopped in Chandler at his ex-girlfriend's house, where they picked up what he said was a BB gun and the Halloween mask. He reportedly stated the two knew they were going to rob a place in Pipestone, they just weren't sure which one until they parked in an alley and walked around the block. They walked past Cid's and decided to rob it, Torres allegedly said, so they went back to the car and got the mask and the gun.

During questioning, Hernandez reportedly told authorities the two men had driven to Pipestone to apply for jobs at "windmill places." He said they had been driving around smoking pot when police started following them. Hernandez said he was only a passenger and that Torres was driving. He stated he was scared after the car went into the ditch so he ran into the corn field. He cried as he told authorities his life was messed up. When informed by authorities that they knew he had committed a crime in town, he asked for an attorney and the interview ended.

Hernandez has been charged in the past with having marijuana in a motor vehicle, driving while under a chemical influence, disorderly conduct and fifth-degree assault.

During questioning, Torres allegedly stated he had lost control of the car and gone into the ditch because he was trying to change clothes and drive at the same time.