FERNDALE/MADISON HEIGHTS — A pair of suspects were arrested for robbing multiple people at gunpoint before leading local authorities on a high-speed pursuit.
Police believe Charlie Lester, 40, of Detroit, was the armed robber in incidents reported in Ferndale and Madison Heights Feb. 9 and 10, and that Ryan Hauser, 31, of Hazel Park, was the getaway driver. The two men were arraigned by Magistrate Kimberly Wilson in Madison Heights 43rd District Court Feb. 13.
At press time, the suspects still had not been arraigned in Ferndale. Police were continuing to investigate the case, which had not yet been submitted to the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office.
In Madison Heights, Lester and Hauser were both charged with armed robbery, a felony that carries a maximum life sentence. Hauser was also hit with three additional charges: one count of third-degree fleeing and eluding police, a five-year felony, and one count each of possession of marijuana and driving with a suspended license second offense, both one-year misdemeanors. Bond was set at $150,000 cash or surety for Lester and $207,000 cash or surety for Hauser.
According to Ferndale Police Detective Lt. Bill Wilson, at around 9 p.m. Feb. 9, a 52-year-old man was approached by an unknown man in the parking lot of the Stop & Go Deli at 1365 E. Nine Mile Road. The unknown man had a revolver in his hand and demanded the victim’s money and cellphone. The victim complied by handing over his belongings. He later told police that he believed the suspect was assisted by an accomplice driving a red pickup truck.
Additional details about the Ferndale incident were unavailable at press time.
A few hours later, just after midnight Feb. 10, Madison Heights police received a 911 call regarding a robbery at gunpoint that had just occurred at the Fairfield Inn, 32800 Stephenson Highway, according to a press release. A 25-year-old man and his 23-year-old girlfriend were checking into their room on the second floor when Lester allegedly snuck up from behind in the hallway and pointed a pistol at them.
The couple said that Lester ordered them to surrender all of their personal property, taking their wallet, purse, jewelry, phones, keys and baggage, according to police. He then ran outside and jumped into a red 2004 Ford F-150 that was idling in the parking lot, the press release said. The victims were able to get a good look at the pickup truck before it drove off, and they quickly went to the lobby to call 911.
Police issued an alert with a description of the suspect vehicle, and a Madison Heights patrol officer soon spotted a matching truck heading southbound on I-75, near 11 Mile Road. The officer attempted to stop the vehicle, but the driver sped up to try to elude him, the press release stated.
This led to a drawn-out chase involving officers from Madison Heights, Ferndale and Royal Oak that continued southbound on I-75, then eastbound on I-94, then onto residential streets in Detroit. There, according to the press release, the suspects slowed down enough for one of them to bail out of the vehicle while it was still in motion. The truck continued traveling forward until it veered off the road and struck a fire hydrant.
“The driver jumped out of the moving vehicle, but the passenger (the alleged gunman) waited until the vehicle came to a stop,” said Madison Heights Police Lt. Robert Anderson.
The officers reportedly caught and arrested Hauser, the driver. They then reportedly followed Lester’s footprints in the snow and found him lying low in a vacant field, where they were able to take him into custody without resistance. A pistol was located nearby, partially buried in the snow. Evidence linking the men to the crimes — including the possessions of the couple robbed at the hotel — was recovered inside their crashed truck, according to the press release.
“We’ve seen this happen before, so we take high-speed pursuits very seriously,” Anderson said. “And that’s why we’re so happy now to see the increased penalty: In addition to his other charges, this man (Hauser) is facing a five-year felony for fleeing and eluding, which in the past used to be a misdemeanor. There are four different degrees of fleeing and eluding now, and depending on whether you hurt someone or kill someone, the penalty keeps increasing.”
The lieutenant added that it is fortunate no one got hurt during such a dangerous chase. “We were happy with the quick response times, and the fact that the victim called immediately was helpful,” he said. “We had a general idea of where the suspect vehicle might go. The Fairfield Inn is at 14 Mile and Stephenson, which is right next to the freeway, so thankfully we had a patrol officer in the area. We’re also thankful for the assistance of Royal Oak and Ferndale police; when chasing armed suspects, it’s nice to have a few extra officers at your side.”