A Washington man went to prison this week for responding to a series of personal setbacks by robbing a neighborhood convenience store at knifepoint last fall.
Aaron Taghan, 29, was sentenced to nine years in prison when he pleaded guilty to the crime Friday in Tazewell County Circuit Court.
He received well short of the maximum 30-year term for armed robbery, a Class X felony, despite a 2005 burglary conviction. Taghan successfully completed his four-year probation term in that case.
His drug addiction, however, apparently induced him back to crime, and he targeted the store that had recently fired his girlfriend, according to a prosecutor’s court affidavit.
Taghan told police, “Things would’ve been different today,” had he not also been fired from his job because of his heroin addiction shortly before he robbed the Quick Stop last Oct. 21, the affidavit stated.
Police said Taghan tried to disguise himself with a gorilla mask when he entered the store at 802 Peoria St. brandishing a knife shortly before noon. He jumped over its counter, held the knife to the clerk and demanded she open the register.
Taghan fled on foot with $589 in cash and a pack of cigarettes, the affidavit stated.
His mask, which covered only part of his face, fooled no one. Police knew Taghan from past encounters and quickly recognized him in video of the robbery captured by the store’s security camera. The clerk and store manager also said they knew Taghan as the boyfriend of the woman recently fired from her job there, the affidavit stated.
Schools in Washington locked their doors and kept students inside as police flooded the area in search of the robber. Neighborhood residents said they saw a man with a hooded sweatshirt matching the robber’s clothing cut across their homes’ lawns while heading north from the store.
Within an hour, an officer spotted Taghan walking in that direction. He ran to his home at 404 N. Wood St. as police gathered in pursuit. One officer accidentally fired a shot in the house that struck a wall but caused no injuries.
Taghan was arrested inside without further incident. Police found clothes that matched the robber’s as well as the stolen cash in a trash can, the affidavit stated.
He was given credit for the 115 days he’s spent in custody since his arrest. With good behavior he could serve about four more years of his term.
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