HOUSTON—Houston police were searching for a suspect Thursday who tried to rob a bar that officers were staking out but slipped away unnoticed before he could be caught.
Police said the Cozy Corner bar, located in the 11500 block of Burdine at Chimney Rock, had been robbed at least four times in just over a month before Thursday’s incident. That’s why they decided to set up a stakeout.
"As part of a proactive initiative, the Southwest Patrol Division Tactical Team had set up surveillance on it (the bar) using undercover officers," said Kese Smith, spokesperson for the Houston Police Department.
As officers were conducting surveillance, they saw a man dressed in all black with a shotgun approach the bar around 2:15 a.m.
"A female bartender came outside, the suspect appeared to order her back inside," Smith said.
The robber demanded money, but the bartender had bad news for him.
Beverly Bishop, the bar owner’s wife, said they stopped using cash drop bags after the most recent robbery last week. So the robber was out of luck, because the bartender didn’t have access to the new safe.
A mere 25 seconds after he entered the bar, the suspect can be seen on surveillance video peering out of the door and fleeing empty-handed – unbeknownst to the officers outside.
Police said at one point during the stakeout, an undercover officer had to reposition his car to get a better view of the door, and the suspect may have escaped while that was happening.
Meanwhile, the bartender came back out and was taken to safety by the officers. She said she was the only one in the bar at the time of the holdup.
Believing the suspect was still inside, officers called SWAT to the scene.
SWAT officers tried to talk the suspect, but never got a response.
Police later reviewed surveillance video and saw that the suspect had escaped just seconds after he arrived.
"To put that much manpower and to try as hard as they did and it not to work out, it’s very frustrating," bar owner John Bishop said.
"I’m very scared. I’m very, very scared," Beverly Bishop said. "I’m not scared for myself, I’m afraid for the people that are working there."
The bar employee said the robber was the same guy who’d held her up the four previous times.
"We’re probably off 60 percent on our night business because of this. People just don’t want to get out. They don’t want to get out after dark. Who could blame them?" John Bishop said.
The robber has escaped with a total of $10,000 so far. But on Thursday, at least, he didn’t get a dime.
Police said the HPD Robbery Unit and Southwest Patrol will continue to work closely with the bar owner to get the suspect in custody.