Cops say they recovered masks from robbery

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | The criminal court building at the County Center.
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | The criminal court building at the County Center.

Two of the three young men charged with robbing a Riverside gas station at gunpoint on Halloween were arraigned on a grand jury indictment in Suffolk County criminal court Wednesday afternoon.

Erick Darden, 19, and Arnell Nash, 21, both of Riverhead were each charged with first-degree armed robbery, third-degree robbery and petit larceny in connection with the robbery, according to the indictment.

The pair pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Southampton police have said Mr. Darden and Mr. Nash, along with a third suspect identified as 17-year-old Riverhead resident Larry Moore, burst into the Valero gas station on Flanders Road wearing masks about 9:30 p.m. on Oct. 31.

The men displayed what appeared to be a firearm during the course of the robbery and struck the clerk at the station, Suffolk County assistant district attorney Al Croce said in court Wednesday.

The suspects are accused of taking about $300 in cash from the store’s register and attempting to rob the clerk as well before fleeing.

The crime was captured on the gas station’s surveillance tape, Mr. Croce said.

“The trio is believed to be responsible for not less than four armed robberies between October 20 and November 19, 2012, including the robberies at the BP Station in Mattituck and Bath’s Pharmacy in Riverhead,” reads a press release issued by District Attorney Thomas Spota’s office Wednesday night.

Investigations into those armed robberies are still ongoing, local police say.

Mr. Croce said that Mr. Darden, who was 18-years-old at the time of the crime, gave a statement to investigators indicating his involvement, Mr. Croce said.

Mr. Darden also led police to a scene where police discovered masks and clothing believed to have been used in the armed robbery, he said.

Investigators are currently conducting DNA tests on that evidence, Mr. Croce said.

Mr. Darden was held on $40,000 cash or $200,000 bond bail.

Mr. Nash “acted in concert” with Mr. Darden and Mr. Moore in the robbery, the indictment reads.

Mr. Nash was previously convicted as a youth offender and had been released from state prison one month before the robbery, Mr. Croce said. It was not immediately clear what crime he had been convicted of.

While both Mr. Darden and Mr. Moore have implicated themselves and Mr. Nash in the crime, Mr. Nash has not made similar statements to police, officials said.

Bail for Mr. Darden was set at $25,000 cash or $100,000 bond. Mr. Moore is scheduled to be arraigned on Dec. 14, according to online court records.

It was not immdiately clear why the three men were not arraigned together.

The Southampton Town Police Dive Team searched the Peconic River last Wednesday looking for the weapon allegedly used in the robbery, but came up empty, police said.

The divers returned to the river Wednesday morning, this time aided by Riverhead Town police using metal detectors.

At that scene, Riverhead police Lt. David Lessard said that while the river bottom isn’t deep, the divers can stand in it at low tide, and it’s murky and objects will just sink deeper and deeper into the mud if they are not found soon.

As of publication time, police had not reported finding any weapons in the murky waters.

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Additional reporting from Tim Gannon

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Riverhead and Southampton police divers in the Peconic River searching for a gun used in recent robberies.