VAN BUREN TOWNSHIP, Mich. – A man who robbed CVS pharmacies five times -- in Ann Arbor, Saline, Milan, and the same location twice in Van Buren Township -- was arrested when a pharmacist gave him a fake pill bottle installed with a tracker and the thief tried to tell the officers following him that the person they were looking for “ran that way.”
Kristopher Kukola is being investigated by the FBI in connection with this string of robberies, which happened between May 24 and July 7, according to authorities.
May 24: Van Buren Township
Van Buren Township officers were called at 10:36 p.m. May 24 to the CVS pharmacy at 10915 Belleville Road, they said.
When they arrived, police spoke to a pharmacist who had called 911 and reported an armed robbery.
The pharmacist said a man had approached the counter and said, “I don’t mean to alarm you, but this is a robbery. Get me all the Norcos and Vicodin you have. You have 10 seconds,” according to authorities.
Officials said the man reached into the right pocket of his jacket and said, “I’m armed.” He brandished the handle of a black handgun, court records say.
The pharmacist said he collected the pills, placed them in a plastic bag, and handed that bag to the robber, according to the criminal complaint.
Officials said the robber ordered the pharmacist and a pharmacy technician to lie on the ground. Then, he left through the front entrance, according to authorities.
The pharmacist said he and the pharmacy technician stayed on the floor for several minutes to make sure the robber had left.
Court records say more than $2,000 worth of controlled substances were stolen during the robbery.
Staff members described the robber as being about 5 feet, 10 inches tall. He wore a large, black face covering, a black hat, and a black coat, according to authorities.
June 2: Saline
Saline police officers said they were called at 11:26 p.m. June 2 to the CVS pharmacy at 413 East Michigan Avenue.
The on-duty pharmacist who called 911 said a man had approached the counter and handed her a torn piece of paper, according to the criminal complaint.
She said a list of medications was written on the paper. The robber demanded she give him everything on the list, court records show.
Officials said the man opened the pocket of his hooded sweatshirt and displayed a black handgun. The pharmacist told him that she didn’t have all the items on his list, and he demanded she turn over everything she did have, according to authorities.
The pharmacist collected various medications, including Oxycodone, Norco, Adderall, Promethazine with Codeine, and Xanax, before placing them in a CVS bag and handing the bag to the robber, officials said.
The man told the pharmacist to lie on the floor for 50 seconds, court records show. She said she got her cellphone and called 911 after 20 seconds.
More than $500 worth of controlled substances were stolen from the pharmacy, the criminal complaint says.
The pharmacist said the man was about 6 feet tall with a thin build. He was in his late 20s or early 30s, authorities said.
Surveillance images show the man wore a gray Columbia-style jacket with a black Columbia sweatshirt underneath.
June 8: Van Buren Township
Police were called at 11:32 p.m. June 8 to the same CVS store in Van Buren Township where the May 24 armed robbery was reported, according to authorities.
When officers arrived, they spoke to the same pharmacist who had reported the May 24 incident, they said.
He said an unknown man had entered the store, approached the counter, and passed over a list of prescription drugs, court records show.
The robber said, “Put everything on the list in the bag or I will start shooting. I have a gun,” according to the criminal complaint.
When the pharmacist went to the safe that contained the controlled substances and started to put them in the bag, he told the robber that the safe had a three-minute timer, authorities said.
The robber replied, “That is OK. If other customers come in, I am just another customer,” officials said.
When the pharmacist returned with the bag of controlled substances, the robber said, “I know there are more than this. Everyone’s lives are in your hands right now. I will start shooting everyone. I know there is more,” according to court records.
The pharmacist returned to the safe and filled the bag with more prescription drugs, police said. He handed the bag to the robber and was told to lie on the ground and count to 100, according to officials.
He said he stayed on the ground until he was confident the robber had left the store. He said he did not see the gun, and the robber had taken the note with him, the complaint says.
The drugs taken from the pharmacy included Norco, Percocet, Xanax, Morphine, and Codeine, court records show.
The pharmacist estimated more than 2,000 pills valued at over $2,000 total had been stolen.
CVS staff members said the man was about 30 years old and 6 feet tall. He might have been driving a dark-colored SUV, police said.
June 14: Ann Arbor
Officers in Ann Arbor were called at 8:54 p.m. June 14 to the CVS pharmacy at 3535 Plymouth Road, they said.
The pharmacist told police that a man in his 20s had approached the pharmacy drop-off window wearing black pants, a black sweatshirt, a blue and white COVID mask, and a beanie-style hat.
The robber was armed with what the pharmacist described as a “black and green gun, possibly a Glock,” officials said.
He walked up to the window and waved the pharmacist over before lifting the front of his sweatshirt to reveal the handgun, which was tucked into his waistband, according to authorities.
The robber demanded Oxycodone, court records say. Officials said the pharmacist told the man it would take three minutes because of the time locks on the cabinet, and the man replied, “If I’m going, you’re going with me.”
Police said the pharmacist took that statement as a threat to his life.
The pharmacist told the robber that there were Norcos at his workstation, officials said. The pharmacist retrieved the drugs and tossed them to the robber, authorities said.
Court records show the robber fled the pharmacy through the front door after taking about $2,000 worth of Norcos.
July 7: Milan
Officers in Milan were called at 10:46 a.m. Thursday (July 7) to the CVS pharmacy at 1249 Dexter Street, they said.
Police spoke to the pharmacist and store manager, who had both been inside during an armed robbery.
The pharmacist told police that a man in a black surgical mask, a winter beanie cap, and a sweatshirt or jacket had entered the store and walked up to the pharmacy counter.
The man handed the pharmacist a list of prescription pills, including Percocet, Oxycodone, Xanex, Codeine plus Promethazine, Adderall, and Morphine, according to authorities.
The note also included a timeline of how long it should take to collect the pills, and “no cops” was written at the bottom, the criminal complaint says.
The pharmacist took the note, went to the safe, and started to fill CVS bags with prescription pills, officials said.
While putting pills in the bag, the pharmacist included a decoy pill bottle that contained a GPS tracking device, court records show. The device provides real-time location and tracking information.
The pharmacist then turned the pills and decoy over to the robber, police said.
The store manager told officers that he had seen the robber while stocking shelves. Authorities said the robber turned to face the store manager and ordered him to stop and not move, according to officials.
The store manager and the robber exchanged words, and the manager told the man to finish his business and leave the store, the criminal complaint says. At that time, the robber reached toward his waist, pulled a black handgun from the pocket of his jacket, and pointed it at the manager, officials said.
Police said the store manager ran to the bathroom and called 911.
Before leaving the store, the robber told everyone to get on the ground and count to 100, according to authorities.
Between $30,000 and $40,000 worth of controlled substances were stolen from the pharmacy, court documents said.
Tracking robbery suspect
Authorities tracked the fake pill bottle given to the robber and determined he was driving a silver Jeep Compass, they said.
The Jeep entered an apartment complex in Belleville, and police said they saw the suspected robber running northbound.
Officers established a perimeter. A Michigan State Police K-9 trooper arrived to help in the search.
A man approached the trooper and said, “The guy you are looking for ran that way,” according to authorities.
Officers who were already at the scene said the man who had approached the trooper was the suspected robber from the Milan store.
He was taken into custody and identified as Kukola, the criminal complaint says.
During a search of the Jeep, officers said they found a BB gun matching the description of the weapon used during the Milan robbery. There were also stolen prescription drugs in the vehicle, police said.
Kukola waived his rights during an interview and admitted to all five robberies, according to authorities. He also admitted that he had used a BB gun during those robberies, the complaint says.
Officials concluded that there’s probable cause to charge Kukola with pharmacy robbery.