Suspect in Toys-R-Us armed robbery arrested at border

A suspect in a string of brazen grocery store robberies pictured on surveillance video - VPD handout
A suspect in a string of brazen grocery store robberies pictured on surveillance video
— image credit: VPD handout

A man wanted in a string of brazen armed robberies across Metro Vancouver, including the gunpoint heist of a busy North Vancouver Toys-R-Us store filled with holiday shoppers, is now in police custody in the United States.

The 68-year-old American was living in Squamish under an assumed name when he was arrested on Dec. 15 while trying to cross the border into the U.S., the Vancouver Police Department said Friday.

Thomas John Schwartz, 68, who also went by 'Tom Stone,' was arrested at the border on a 1972 warrant relating to allegations of desertion from the U.S. Air Force.

On Dec. 21, U.S. authorities and Canada's Integrated National Security Enforcement Team identified the man in custody on the 40-year-old warrant as the same man wanted by multiple Metro Vancouver police agencies for several armed robberies.

The latest hold-up was on Dec. 1, when the grey-haired man robbed the Toys-R-Us store on Brooksbank Avenue, wielding what appeared to be a handgun. Days later, the VPD joined police in North Vancouver, West Vancouver and Burnaby in issuing a public appeal for information following eight robberies police believed were all carried out by the same man since March.

"We were looking specifically for him prior to his being apprehended at the border," North Vancouver RCMP spokesman Cpl. Doug Trousdell told The Outlook Friday. "We've had a number of tips, but the most promising at the time, and the one that has turned out to be accurate, was identifying this man who was living under the name 'Tom Stone' in Squamish."

Schwartz stands charged with robbery and weapons related offences, while more charges are pending, according to the VPD.

Schwartz remains in custody in the U.S. pending an extradition hearing scheduled for March 11.

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