The clerk at Terrible Herbst thought William Bonaparte was just another customer strolling into the store to squelch his cigarette craving.
Bonaparte was browsing the tobacco products early Friday at the northwest valley convenience store when a gunman, Delon Hunter, walked in and pointed his weapon at Bonaparte.
"I'm not playing, give me all you have or I'll shoot him in the head," Hunter shouted at the clerk, according to a Las Vegas police report.
Hunter made off with $252 from the store on Charleston Boulevard, near Town Center Drive, police said.
Although the store clerk thought Bonaparte had been taken hostage by Hunter, it was nothing more than dangerous theater, police said, and the clerk wouldn't be the last to be fooled by the duo that morning.
Bonaparte and Hunter were in it together. The two men were part of a four-person crew who robbed four northwest valley convenience stores in 30 minutes early Friday, Las Vegas police said.
Lt. Clint Nichols of the Metropolitan Police Department's Robbery Homicide Bureau said Tuesday that the stickup scheme involving suspects acting as a patron and a robber was unusual.
"This was a first for us," Nichols said. "It's kind of stupid if you think about it. You're going to let a friend put a loaded gun to your head?"
The report said Hunter accidentally shot a round from his firearm after one of the robberies.
Bonaparte and Hunter continued to play the roles of store patron and robber, authorities said, until police stopped them after a short car chase on Tenaya Way near Cheyenne Avenue.
Hunter, 18, was arrested on four counts of conspiracy to commit robbery, four counts of robbery with a deadly weapon and four counts of burglary with a firearm.
Bonaparte, 25, and Erica Bowden-Payne, 25, also were arrested on the same recommended charges. Bowden-Payne was dating Bonaparte, the report said.
Michael Hall, 26, was arrested on four counts of robbery with a deadly weapon, four counts of burglary with a firearm, four counts of conspiracy to commit robbery and four counts of evading police.
According to his arrest report, Hall was driving the 2001 Hyundai Sonata used as the escape vehicle at the four crime scenes.
The first robbery occurred about 4 a.m. at the West Charleston Terrible Herbst store. The last occurred shortly before 4:30 a.m. at a Terrible Herbst near West Cheyenne Avenue and Buffalo Drive.
Nichols said that before the last robbery was reported, patrol officers in the area began to suspect that the same group was behind the string of robberies.
Police already had information about the suspects' vehicle, and after one robbery, the supposed patron ran off with the gunman.
The police report said an officer witnessed the fourth robbery and parked his vehicle in the store's parking lot as he called for backup.
As Bonaparte and Hunter fled the last store, police said, officers were waiting for them with guns drawn.
The suspects then led police on a short car chase reaching 70 mph.
The suspects' car crashed in front of a landscaped area, the report said. Bowden-Payne was the only suspect who stayed in the car. The others fled but were later caught.
The report said the suspects netted more than $500 in cash and a $50 carton of cigarettes.
Nichols said the pursuing officers showed incredible restraint when they took the group into custody.
The report said a brown ski mask was found in the Sonata with a carton of cigarettes. Officers found hundreds of dollars on the suspects and recovered a handgun.
When police interviewed Hunter, he confessed to the robberies, according to the report. He said Hall had approached him earlier that morning about robbing stores.
Bonaparte also told police that Hall had told him he wanted to "hit some licks," which he knew meant rob stores.
Bowden-Payne said she received no money from the robberies and fell asleep after the first two. She said she woke up when police were chasing them.
One store clerk identified Bonaparte and Hunter as suspects.
A second clerk said that he couldn't identify Hunter because the gunman had been wearing a mask, but that his body type and clothes matched that of the gunman, the report said.
The four suspects are being held without bail at the Clark County Detention Center. They are scheduled to appear in court April 23.
Contact reporter Antonio Planas at aplanas@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4638.