Cops called him the “Blue Shoe Bandit,” a reference to the distinctive sneakers he wore while allegedly committing robberies up and down the Route 8 corridor, including one Derby business he hit twice.
According to police, he robbed 10 businesses in eight towns in three months.
The robberies were occurring so often authorities formed a task force of area detectives to stop them. They eventually used a GPS device to build a case against the man they say is responsible for the robbery spree — 29-year-old Michael Harris.
Harris has been charged in four local robberies and 11 statewide. In court documents police say he’s a suspect in a half-dozen more.
Police said they caught up with Harris Feb. 1, when they tailed him to a convenience store in Southington and he robbed it while local police were nearby.
Harris fled, but he was arrested a short time later in Waterbury.
Since then detectives from eight different towns have charged him with perpetrating similar robberies, including three in Derby and one in Shelton.
The details come from arrest warrants for Harris made public after his March 30 arrest in the Derby and Shelton cases.
Harris is due back in court in Derby April 28.
The Valley Indy e-mailed his lawyer for comment April 11.
Harris is charged in the following local cases:
- A Dec. 9, 2016 robbery at the Krauszer’s on Route 34 in Derby for in which he’s charged with first-degree robbery and third-degree larceny;
- A Dec. 22, 2016 robbery at the Mill Variety store on Howe Avenue in Shelton in which he’s charged with first-degree robbery and sixth-degree larceny;
- A Dec. 29, 2016 robbery, again at Krauszer’s in Derby, in which he’s charged with first-degree robbery and sixth-degree larceny;
- A Jan. 4, 2017 robbery at the Derby Mart on Elizabeth Street in which he’s charged with first-degree robbery and sixth-degree larceny.
In each of the those cases Harris allegedly entered the store, threatened the clerk with a gun, and demanded money.
The robber would usually be masked and dressed in the same clothes, according to the warrants, though they do not say whether he actually displayed a gun in each and every alleged heist.
Detectives from Derby and Shelton first linked the robberies to each other, and then to heists up and down Route 8 in Torrington, Middlebury, Naugatuck, Waterbury, and Winchester.
“Detectives found that the suspect had the same M.O., body shape, black puffy jacket, sweat pants, and the same blue Nike sneakers,” Derby Detective Edward Sullivan wrote in one of the warrants.
Thus the “Blue Shoe Bandit” nickname.
Detectives from throughout the Valley compared notes at a subsequent meeting and formed a robbery task force to share information.
According to a warrant in the Shelton case, written by Detective Christopher Nugent, the task force developed and then eliminated a number of suspects while probing the robberies.
On Jan. 23, Nugent’s warrant says Torrington police reported that they had identified Harris as a possible perpetrator because he resembled the suspect from surveillance photos showing the robberies and drove a car similar to one reported at several of them.
According to Nugent’s warrant, Harris was also a suspect in a prior robbery in Torrington, where he was living at the time. At one point he also reported having an address in Ansonia, according to court records.
On Jan. 26, detectives got a warrant to put a GPS tracking device on the car Harris was driving, which was registered to his girlfriend.
Police found it at Harris’ address in Torrington and did surveillance until Nugent stuck the tracker onto the vehicle about 10 p.m. that night.
On Feb. 1, Naugatuck cops were monitoring the GPS tracker when they noticed the vehicle had gone from Torrington onto Interstate 84.
Eventually, the car got off the highway in Southington. Detectives from the task force alerted Southington cops, who tracked the vehicle as a man they believed to be Harris allegedly parked it several times in the area of a convenience store.
Then, about 7:40 p.m., they saw the man enter the convenience store.
“After a brief period of time officers observed the same male exit the store running to his vehicle parked in the parking lot,” Nugent’s warrant says. “Southington Police then received a 911 call from the store reporting they were just robbed at gunpoint.”
The vehicle got back onto I-84, pulling off in Waterbury and stopping at a restaurant parking lot.
Naugatuck police stopped the vehicle and allegedly found Harris behind the wheel, along with cash from the robbery and a large BB handgun.
Back at the police station, the warrant says Harris admitted committing the Southington robbery, but denied being involved in any of the other robberies.
On Feb. 2, police obtained a search warrant to search Harris’ girlfriend’s home in Torrington.
There, they found clothes matching the descriptions reported by several witnesses in the previous heists — including the blue sneakers seen on the surveillance footage from the Derby and Shelton stick-ups.
Police theorized that Harris allegedly committed the robberies to get money for heroin.
Altogether, Harris faces charges in 11 different cases: 11 counts of first-degree robbery, one count of third-degree robbery, eight counts of sixth-degree larceny, two counts of fifth-degree larceny, and single counts of fourth-degree larceny, third-degree larceny, breach of peace, and threatening.
According to Correction Department records, he is currently being held at Northern Correctional Institution, a maximum security prison in Somers, on bonds totaling $1,225,000.