Oxycontin robbery suspect caught in Northeast Fresno

FRESNO, Calif. The pharmacy robbery spree started in October of last year. John Michael Bates is in jail now, facing nine charges of armed robbery.

Police say the last pharmacy Bates hit was on Chestnut and Shepherd in Northeast Fresno. Police got a silent alarm and then chased the suspect back to his parents' home about a mile-and-a-half away. That was where the six-month crime spree that netted 2,000 pills came to an end.

Police raided the home, looking for evidence of the biggest prescription drug robbery spree in the city's history. "This suspect had spent the last several months going into various stores throughout Fresno and Clovis and terrorizing either clerks or pharmacists," said Police Chief Jerry Dyer.

Investigators say John Michael Bates hit 10 different pharmacies in North Fresno and Clovis, looking for Oxycontin and methadone. Surveillance video caught him in the act, but a disguise kept police off his trail for months. "He had his head down with the cap, with the baseball cap," said Von's pharmacy clerk Nancy Abrica, who was one of the victims.

Abrica was a clerk at one of four pharmacies targeted by the robber on the same night in January. She says her stomach flipped when she read the note he passed across the counter.

"Give me all the methadone and oxycontin you have in stock," she remembered the note reading. "Someone's watching you. If you don't do what I say, there are going to be consequences."

Abrica never gave the man any drugs, but police say Bates had an insatiable need for drugs, so he hit three more pharmacies until he got some.

Investigators say Bates was using every single pill himself, not selling them, and he'd stop committing robberies until he ran out.

"During the time in which there was a significant delay between robberies, the suspect was supporting his habit by stealing oxycontin pills from his mother," said Dyer.

Action News tried to contact Bates' family, but they had no comment Friday. Police also say they don't think Bates was ever really armed, but just the threat makes the crime worse.

He's in jail on a total bail of more than $300,000.

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