Woman, 75, tries to thwart Malden store robbery

Career criminal flees after he is hit by customer

By Alix Roy
Globe Correspondent / February 18, 2010

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When a robber barged into a Malden convenience store around 1 a.m. last Thursday morning and demanded cash from the register, he never expected a 75-year-old customer to stand in his way.

But an elderly woman, dressed in a dark coat and wearing a babushka, gave him a piece of her mind, grabbing a nearby price scanner and beating him with it until he fled from the store with about $100.

The woman, who declined to give her name, followed the man toward the door as the stunned clerk looked on. Her beating of the robber was captured on a surveillance video.

“She frequented the store quite often; she was friendly with the clerk,’’ said Malden police Lieutenant Marc Gatcomb. “I think she took it personal when he tried to move in and possibly assault her friend and try to rob the place.’’

What the woman did not know was that the 6-foot-tall man she assaulted was a career criminal who threatened to kill police officers during an arrest last fall.

The suspect’s notoriety among law enforcement officers in the area allowed police to easily identify him after viewing the surveillance camera from the 7-Eleven on Salem Street, where the robbery took place, Gatcomb said.

Michael McInnis, 34, was charged with unarmed robbery in the theft of the cash from the register.

McInnis, whose most recent address is in Saugus, has been arraigned 13 times over the past 10 years in Malden District Court on charges ranging from robbery to disturbing the peace. He served 60 days in the Middlesex Jail in Cambridge for traffic violations committed last April, according to court records.

Last year, according to a report filed Nov. 13 by Malden police Sergeant Robert Dietz, McInnis was intoxicated and refused to cooperate with police after his girlfriend asked that he be removed from her Cross Street home.

“He threatened to kill me and my family,’’ Dietz wrote in the report. “He was begging me to take off my badge and gun to fight him.’’

McInnis was left in a holding cell where police hoped he would calm down. Instead, he began smashing his head against the plexiglass window and threatened to kill himself, Malden police Lieutenant Glenn Cronin wrote in a report.

In the recent robbery, the woman can be seen in the store’s surveillance video chatting with the clerk.

As soon as McInnis approaches the register, the woman sprang into action, swinging the plastic scanner across the counter. “It was pretty incredible,’’ Gatcomb said.

Kishmore Benmatsa, who was working the counter at the time of the robbery, told police he had seen McInnis in the store before and positively identified his picture, said police reports. Benmatsa did not return a call seeking comment.

McInnis is being held in Middlesex Jail after failing to post $1,500 bail. Malden District Court Judge Joseph Jennings cited McInnis’s criminal record and failure to show up for prior court dates in setting the bail amount. He is scheduled for a pretrial hearing March 3.