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Police arrest felon suspected in Sunset Grocery robberies

SPOKANE, Wash. - 23674542

Spokane police believe they stopped an armed robbery seconds before it happened at Sunset Grocery in Browne's Addition Thursday night, but the clerk on duty says it was just a misunderstanding. 

Sunset Grocery has been robbed twice this month by a man wearing a mask and brandishing a handgun, so when police responded to a report of shots fired in the area and spotted Justin Werle inside the store with his hand in his coat they jumped into action. 

Werle was discovered with a sawed-off shotgun underneath his coat. Police took him into custody charged with attempted 1st degree armed robbery. 

In court Friday Werle's mother made an appearance and explained there was never any threat of a robbery – Werle was simply trying to protect a woman named April, the female clerk on duty who he considers a friend. 

"He actually protects her at night when the store gets dark," Donna Werle said. "They've been robbed like nine times in the past two years and he's the one who is there who makes sure April makes it to her car." 

Donna Werle also told investigators that even though Werle was convicted of shooting a man in the neck earlier this year and allegedly made other threats with a knife, she doesn't believe her son is a danger to the community.

"He's on probation, he's complied on everything with his probation officer and he doesn't have any violations. He's actually doing rather well and so to make the bond so high it really makes it hard for him to get out," she said.

April also spoke to KXLY today and corroborated Donna Werle's story saying that Justin Werle did not try to rob her and that if he was a thief he would have worn a mask like previous holdup suspects. 

Despite their testimony, Werle was not released from police custody. Since he is a convicted felon Werle is not allowed to be in possession of a firearm, and police say the fact that he lives so close to Sunset Grocery makes him a viable suspect in this month's previous robberies. 

A judge set Werle's bond at $35 thousand today.