Armed robbery renews worker’s concern with Whitehorse RCMP

Brad Rusk is surprised he hasn’t been shot. For the last seven months the father of two has been working at Bernie’s Race Trac Gas.

Brad Rusk is surprised he hasn’t been shot.

For the last seven months the father of two has been working at Bernie’s Race Trac Gas.

It’s the most dangerous job he’s ever had.

“I quit the military and quit walking tall steel because I wanted to go home to my wife and kids at the end of the day,” said Rusk, ringing through pop and chips Friday afternoon.

“But with this job, it’s only a matter of time until one of us is dead and bleeding behind the counter because some crystal-meth-head wants $60 from the till.”

Rusk has had customers swing sticks at him, been warned his house was going to be burnt down, and has been threatened with bodily harm in front of his two young children.

It’s all in a day’s work, he said.

But Thursday, after a man armed with a rifle held up the store, Rusk had enough.

His manager was at work during the robbery.

The police were called.

But they were slow showing up, said Rusk.

“And they didn’t notify the school.”

Rusk’s two kids go to Elijah Smith Elementary, a five-minute walk from the gas station.

And he was worried about them.

“The guy’s brazen enough to rob a store in broad daylight with an unconcealable weapon — what’s going to stop him from running to the school, especially if the police are after him, and taking kids as hostages?” he said.

When Rusk got to the school, he talked with principal John Wright.

Wright had not heard about the robbery.

“He said if he’d known, he would have taken some sort of quiet affirmative action,” said Rusk.

“It says a lot about our police force that they didn’t even notify the school there’s an armed felon at large in the area.”

The police issued a news release about the armed robbery on Friday at 10:49 a.m., roughly 24 hours after the incident.

“We received the call at 11:40 a.m. Thursday and attended the scene immediately with all available units,” said Constable Eyvi Smith.

Within 15 minutes, police cleared the scene after using a police dog to figure out the suspect drove away.

“So we determined there was no threat to the area because the suspect fled in a vehicle,” said Smith.

“If there had been a threat, we would have informed the community.”

In the last seven months, Bernie’s has seen nine incidents of robberies or break-ins, said Rusk.

“And the police said it was the 40th call they’ve made up here,” said Rusk.

“But if it’s that big a problem, where is the increased patrol — the police presence up here is non-existent.

“How are we, as a community, supposed to look out for each other if we’re not even aware there’s a problem?”

The police need to keep the public informed, said Rusk.

“I’m tired of the RCMP hiding.

“They serve us, it’s about time we made them do their bloody job.

“If I performed like that at my job I’d be fired.”

During his first few months at Bernie’s, Rusk was so scared he carried a 12-inch hunting knife.

And the weak police presence was only part of it.

Bernie’s doesn’t have a drop-box, where cash can be secured throughout the day.

And it’s a busy place, dealing with Canada Post, a U-Haul business, groceries and gas.

“We end up with about $2,000 cash a day,” said Rusk, who confirmed the armed robber took $400 from the till.

“It’s a window of opportunity for theft.”

Bernie’s also cashes cheques, so customers know there’s cash in the till.

And shoplifting is common.

Rusk used to confront the shoplifters, but now he turns a blind eye.

“I would catch a kid shoplifting and the next thing you know the whole family would be down here calling me a racist,” he said.

Bernie’s operates on land leased from Kwanlin Dun, said the band’s executive assistant Joseph Nayally.

Most of the customers live in McIntyre village, said Rusk.

“And most of them are good people, but there’s a small percentage of bad people making it that much worse for everyone,” he said.

“We’re robbed every time we turn around.”

Rusk now locks up the store whenever he leaves the counter to sort mail or deal with a U-Haul rental.

The manager was around the corner sorting mail on Thursday when the armed robber entered the store.

“He heard the door chime and walked around the corner to come face-to-face with a rifle,” said Rusk.

He’s now on stress leave.

And Rusk’s days are numbered.

“I am working full time and going to school full time, and it was convenient to bring my kids here after school,” he said.

“But now my wife doesn’t want me working here and I’m leaving.”

Bernie’s has been looking for help for two months, and hasn’t received a single resume, said Rusk.

“And both employees from Kwanlin Dun quit because they didn’t feel safe working here,” he said.

“I’m afraid for my safety and I was trained in the military. I don’t feel safe until I am in my car with the doors locked driving out of here.”

Police describe the armed robber as a First Nations male approximately 1.8 metres tall with a heavy build.

He was wearing a dark blue balaclava, a blue jacket, dark pants and gloves.

The firearm had a dark metal barrel with a wood-grain stock.

While officers were in the McIntyre subdivision responding to the armed robbery, they noticed a suspicious vehicle in the area.

Police stopped the vehicle, detected the presence of marihuana and upon further investigation seized 20 rocks of cocaine.

A 27-year-old adult male has been charged.

He wasn’t connected to the robbery, said a police release.

Wednesday night police arrested another suspect who was involved with a recent break and enter and assault in the McIntyre subdivision.

Gordon Bill, 25, was charged with one count of break and enter and one count of robbery with violence.