Homer Police have arrested the man they say robbed the Grog Shop at gunpoint December 26th. Twenty-nine-year-old Michael McClendon is charged with First Degree Robbery, among other charges.
Homer Police arrested McClendon Friday after a two-week investigation into the December 26th armed robbery of the Grog Shop in downtown Homer.
Homer Police Chief Mark Robl says the apprehension of McClendon was the result of good old-fashioned police work.
"It was several officers doing a good job here," said Robl.
Police caught a break in the case due to an attempt by McClendon to create a diversion before the crime. In a criminal complaint filed at the Homer Courthouse, Sergeant Larry Kuhns alleges that five minutes before the Grog Shop robbery, the Soldotna dispatch office took a call from a man claiming that he had been in a car accident two miles out East End Road. The man said his girlfriend was bleeding and needed help. Police and medical personnel searched along East End Road but found no vehicle accidents or anyone in distress.
"Within five minutes after that call arrived, the robbery report came in," said Robl. "It didn't take us long at all to come to the conclusion the 911 call was obviously a diversion."
Kuhns alleges that it was McClendon’s attempt to create a diversion that was ultimately his undoing. It was through the hoax 911 call that police were able to find him.
Robl says it’s not uncommon for police to track phone records during an investigation but when calls are made from so-called “throw away” cell phones – like the TracFone used in this crime – the job becomes more difficult. He says the TracFone was sold at the AT&T store in Homer and with a search warrant in hand, police were able to see what calls had been made from the phone prior to the robbery. Those included multiple calls to a Washington state residence identified as belonging to the suspect’s family.
From there, police tracked McClendon to Homer, where he had been staying at the Homer Cabins on Main Street.
In the complaint, Sergeant Kuhns says police then served a search warrant on McClendon’s cabin. Inside, they found items they believed to be related to the Grog Shop robbery, including a black mask and a rifle.
Robl says the rifle, which police believe McClendon fired once into the floor during the course of the robbery, is a sawed off, 13-inch pump-action .22-caliber rifle with a homemade pistol grip handle.
While police were serving the warrant at the cabin, McClendon was observed walking past the driveway. He was then paced into custody without incident and read his Miranda rights.
Robl says McClendon confessed to the crime on the spot, including making the diversion 911 call. McClendon told police that he had thrown the TracFone and the clothing he had worn during the robbery into a nearby Dumpster. Police searched for those items but were unable to recover them.
Robl says he believes McClendon acted alone in this crime. He is currently being held at Wildwood Pretrial Facility in Kenai without bail. He is charged with First Degree Robbery, Third Degree Assault, Tampering With Evidence and Misconduct Involving Weapons.
Robl says that a search of Washington state criminal records revealed that McClendon is a convicted felon in that state.