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Pawn shop bandits caught after brief escape
By Rick Pfeiffer
Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Two alleged armed bandits may have eluded police for a few hours, but before Monday night was over, cops had collared the men they say held-up Rubens Buy and Sell Store earlier in the day.

Falls police surrounded a white Ford Taurus in the parking lot of a Wendy’s Restaurant on Grand island at 8:30 p.m. and, at gunpoint, arrested Steven Thomas Burns and Jarvis “Goodie” Lassalle. In the trunk of the Taurus, investigators recovered a large quantity of cash and jewelry and a pair of loaded, semi-automatic handguns.

Detectives were tight-lipped about what took them to the Grand Island parking lot.

“We were able to develop information that led us there,” was all Falls Police Detective Capt. Ernest Palmer said.

Burns told detectives he and Lassalle, also known as, Rapheal Rodriguez, were on their way to New York City when cops caught them. The pair of robbers was being driven by Burns brother and a friend, neither of whom has been charged.

A convicted felon, with 17 previous arrests and three convictions, Burns said he was an unwilling participant in the Rubens’ heist.

“He (Lassalle) wanted me to rob the pawn shop, I told him that I didn’t want to do it,” Burns said. “But I was forced to do it because (Lassalle) knows some stuff about me and he’s been holding it over my head.”

The 27-year-old, who lists a home address of 548 Fifth St., but is known to spend much of his time in the city of Buffalo, described the robbery exactly as witnessed had detailed it to police. Burns said he and Lassalle walked through the front door of the store, put on masks and then Lassalle pulled out a gun and duct taped the store owner and an employee.

“I had the bags and I cleaned out the display cases, while (Lassalle) stood over the two (victims),” Burns said. “I told the old dude, ‘Please don’t do anything stupid, because I don’t want you to get hurt.’ ”

The two robbers fled from the store, pursued by police, who thought they had at least one of the gunmen trapped either inside or on the roof of the former Pharaoh’s Nightclub.

More than a dozen Falls police and State Park Police officers, along with State Police troopers, surrounded the burned-out nightclub, at Whirlpool Street and Cleveland Avenue, with handguns drawn and rifles to their shoulders. After a search of the bar and a nearby abandoned house failed to turn up any trace of the two robbers, police left the area.

What officers didn’t know, Burns said, was that he and Lassalle were hiding inside an abandoned building next to Pharaoh’s, dividing up the jewelry and money they had taken.

“We hid for hours and then I called my brother from a pay phone and asked him to pick us up.”

Burns’ brother and his friend both said in statements given to detectives, that they had spent a large portion of the day Monday waiting to drive the two bandits to New York City. However, both men vehemently denied they knew anything about the pawn shop robbery until they picked up the robbers.

As they were preparing to get in the car and drive away, Lassalle said that he and Burns had made “some quick money” and then admitted to robbing the pawn shop. Lassalle also told Burns’ brother’s friend he might be needed to help in the get-away.

“Goodie (Lassalle) told me that I would be a hostage if anything were to go wrong,” the man said. “He (Lassalle) said he was going to put a gun to my head, but wouldn’t shoot me and just use me to get away.”

Burns and Lassalle pleaded innocent to charges of first-degree robbery and third-degree grand larceny at their arraignments in Falls City Court Tuesday. Burns was jailed in lieu of bail of $20,000 cash or $40,000 property and is due back in court Friday for a preliminary hearing.

Lassalle, who has a history of 18 arrests, with six convictions and six pending cases, was jailed in lieu of bail of $15,000 cash or $30,000 property and is due back in court Friday for a preliminary hearing. He is currently on parole and faces a detention hearing as a result of his arrest.

Information developed by Falls police detectives also may link Burns and Lassalle to an armed robbery of a restaurant supply store last week in Buffalo.