CAMDEN, Maine — Police from several agencies were on high alert Friday as they searched for a man they say robbed the Camden Rite Aid Pharmacy at knife point the previous evening, running off with about 200 OxyContin and Ritalin pills.
“Obviously, we’re out in force, trying to track this guy down,” said Lt. Michael Geary of the Camden Police Department.
He said that just before 8 p.m. Thursday, a man wearing a black hooded sweatshirt, black hat, dark reflective sunglasses and a half ski mask covering much of his face went into the Rite Aid.
Witnesses said that he was in his 20s, a little taller than 6 feet and weighed between 175 and 180 pounds.
The man brandished a “large type hunting knife” and instructed the pharmacist to give him OxyContin and Ritalin, Geary said.
The pharmacist gave him about 100 pills of each, and then the man left the building by the rear exit, according to the officer.
No one was hurt during the encounter.
Geary said that a witness inside the store called 911, and Camden Officer Paul Spear was the first to respond. Because of the nature of the incident, several other agencies went to the scene, including Maine State Police, the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and officers from the Rockport Police Department.
Police cordoned off the area around the Rite Aid and used a tracking dog from the state police to follow the man’s scent through the parking lot behind Rite Aid, but lost the scent on Mechanic Street.
Camden also has contacted the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency and is using the security tape video from the store to try to identify the alleged robber.
“We have called in as much help as we can. We’re trying to locate this guy,” Geary said.
The Rite Aid manager said Friday that the store and pharmacy were open as usual and were busy. Beyond that, he said he could not comment because it is an ongoing investigation.
The incident is not the first time that local pharmacies have been menaced by armed robbers looking for drugs. Last September, a Rockland man threatened the staff at the Rockland Rite Aid with a machete until they gave him drugs, some of which he consumed before police surrounded him inside the store.
Joshua Powell, 23, was indicted in January by the Knox County grand jury on charges of robbery, stealing drugs and criminal threatening.
It was one of more than 30 reported break-ins or robberies of pharmacies in Maine over the past two years.
Because of the continuing problem of prescription drug abuse in Maine and the high number of those break-ins and robberies, Maine’s U.S. attorney announced in January that the state now has an agreement to allow federal law enforcement agencies to assist local agencies in such investigations.
Pharmacy burglaries and robberies in the state increased from eight in 2009 to 22 in 2010, according to U.S. Attorney Thomas Delahanty II.
He said in a January press conference that Maine leads the nation in people seeking treatment for addiction to painkillers, referring to a report issued in December by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Delahanty said that most robbers and burglars seeking drugs do so to feed their own addictions.
Anyone with information about the knife-wielding man in Camden is asked to call Camden police at 236-7967.