Downtown convenience store robbers returned Friday. They brought a gun this time.

A group of men who raided four downtown convenience stores for cigarettes and liquor earlier this month has apparently struck again — and they brought a gun this time.

Last Saturday evening, January 2, a three-man theft crew stole large amounts of booze and tobacco products from three downtown convenience stores. And, after cops briefly chased them through River North, the team made one more stop in the West Loop to do it again.

Around 3:15 p.m. Friday, two men armed with a handgun took alcohol and tobacco products from the 7-Eleven store at 801 South State in the Loop, according to a CPD report. They were then seen getting into a blue or black Ford Expedition — the same model that police and witnesses saw the crew use last weekend.

The robbers were a White male who wore a black hoodie with brown pants and a Black male who wore a black hoodie with black pants, according to a witness. Both are in their 30’s or 40’s and wore hospital masks. They were last seen running into a nearby alley and getting into the SUV.

Four stores were targeted by the crew in a couple of hours last Saturday. They first targeted 7-Eleven’s store at 201 East Ohio in Streeterville around 8:45 p.m. Minutes later, they did it again at 645 North Kingsbury in River North. And at 10:30, they struck the store at 177 North Wells in the Loop.

Police spotted the Expedition crossing the Chicago River a few minutes after the third incident. Officers pulled the SUV over in River North and approached the vehicle with guns drawn. But the driver sped away again.

He stopped for a few minutes in the West Loop so the crew could raid one more store at 627 West Jackson, according to a CPD report.

Officers who pulled the SUV over in River North said the driver is a Black male over 50-years-old. He wore a dark stocking cap with a dark coat, an officer said.

Convenience store robberies, which have traditionally netted only small amounts of money, are skyrocketing in Chicago as criminals turn their attention to the stores’ high-priced tobacco and liquor inventory. Robberies of convenience stores soared 75% in Chicago last year compared to 2019, according to CPD records.

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is news@cwbchicago.com