Blackfoot man arrested after botched armed robbery in McCammon

February 1, 2017 GMT

Mark C. Polatis

By Debbie Bryce, for the Journal

A Blackfoot man was arrested Monday following a botched armed robbery and a multi-agency pursuit. It all started with a store clerk who refused to hand over the money and ended when law enforcement officers deployed spike strips to stop the suspect’s vehicle.

Mark C. Polatis, 45, is charged with felony aggravated battery, felony eluding and misdemeanor driving under the influence.

According to Bannock County Sheriff’s Office reports, deputies responded to a request for a welfare check on Polatis at about 8 p.m. Sunday. The reporting party believed Polatis was in Lava Hot Springs.

A short time later, deputies were dispatched to a reported armed robbery at the Chevron on U.S. 30 in McCammon. Polatis allegedly brandished a handgun and demanded money.

But Shelli Love, the store’s clerk, refused to comply and instead backed away and called 911.

“He pointed at my till with his finger and said ‘Give me your money,’ and I said, ‘No,’” Love said Tuesday. “Then he hit the till with the gun and said it again and I said, ‘No,’ and I backed up, picked up the phone and called 911. I was giving dispatch a description of his truck while he was driving out of the parking lot.”

Love said she spotted the handgun in the suspect’s front pocket when he first approached the counter. He then tried to purchase a 12-pack of beer, but his card was declined. Love said he sat the weapon on the counter while he searched for a second card to pay for his purchase.

That card cleared, and after putting his wallet and the gun away, Polatis allegedly pointed at the till and demanded money. When Love refused, he removed the handgun from his pocket and struck the register with it.

Love said when she dialed 911, the suspect picked up his beer and left the store.

“After he left the store, then I was scared,” Love said.

Idaho State Police and the Bannock County Sheriff’s Office located the suspect’s vehicle in Pocatello and attempted to stop it.

According to officer reports, Polatis failed to yield and continued westbound on Interstate 86. A pursuit ensued reaching speeds of up to 110 mph.

Spike strips were deployed near the Rupert/Burley area to pop the vehicle’s tires and Polatis was taken into custody at about 12:20 a.m. Monday. A handgun was recovered at the scene.

Love said that as the senior worker in the store at the time, she acted on instinct to protect her young co-workers.

“There were two other young cashiers on the restaurant side and they didn’t know what was going on,” Love said. “I have three kids of my own and I guess if anything happened, I would rather that it happened to me instead of them.”

Love has worked at the store for the past three years. The store’s owners, Mili and Jatinder Ghotra, were grateful for Love’s quick action. But she said they told her that if the situation ever arises again, she should just hand over the cash.

Polatis was transported back to the Bannock County Jail, where he is being held in lieu of a combined bond of $21,000.

A preliminary hearing for the felony charges is set for Feb. 13.