Montgomery County police arrested five 17-year-old students, all juniors at Walt Whitman High School, in connection with an armed robbery at the Smoothie King at 7200 Wisconsin Ave. in Bethesda on March 30.
According to Montgomery County police, a male entered the Smoothie King on March 30, approached two male employees, displayed a handgun and demanded money. After the employees complied and provided the suspect with $463, said police, the suspect fled the store. The employees were not injured.
Robert Warren of the 5400 block of Westbard Avenue, was arrested on April 27 and charged with armed robbery, reckless endangerment, and possession of a firearm and ammunition by a minor, and he was processed as an adult. He was released after posting a $15,000 bond.
Four other students, Alexander Krouskas of the 7500 block of Ben Avon Road in Bethesda, Thomas Ashley III of the 6000 block of Selwyn Road in Bethesda, Patrick Lazear of the 6800 block of Melody Lane in Bethesda, and Justin Schweiger of the 8100 block of Lilly Stone Drive in Bethesda were arrested on May 18 and each charged as adults with armed robbery, first degree assault, theft under $500, and conspiracy to commit each. Each was released on May 19 after making bond, set at $100,000 for all four.
According to police charging documents Warren, Lazear, Schweiger, Ashley and Krouskas — who was an employee at Smoothie King — planned the robbery while at school at Whitman earlier in the day. They met at Warren’s house before the robbery, where Warren had prepared “robbery gear,” a mask, hoodie and a weapon, according to charging documents. Lazear was driving Warren’s vehicle with Warren, Warren’s girlfriend (unnamed in the documents), Schweiger and Ashley as passengers, according to police. Krouskas was working at the Smoothie King at the time of the robbery, according to police.
Police allege that Warren was the one who entered the store and robbed it, while Lazear, Schweiger, Ashley and Warren’s girlfriend waited in a car at Bethesda Elementary School and awaited Warren’s return. According to police, Warren divided the robbery proceeds in the vehicle while Lazear drove the four passengers to Uno’s Pizzeria, where they later met Krouskas.
WHITMAN PRINCIPAL Alan Goodwin said that none of the five students arrested are attending class at school. When Whitman’s administration heard of the formal charges against the students, Goodwin said, they made the decision to have the students complete their junior academic years from home. All five students will receive class assignments and complete them from home until the final day of classes on June 14.
It is not a suspension, Goodwin said. “You want the boys off campus for their own good,” Goodwin said. Having them remain at school “is a distraction for everybody.”
By Friday, Goodwin said, Whitman families were generally aware that the students were no longer attending classes. “The community knows, at least those that bothered to read the WhitNet. … Interestingly, I suppose, the reaction hasn’t been that much,” Goodwin said.
Among students, Goodwin said the main reaction is “a combination of surprise and dismay. … Some of the athletes are upset that the students have been excluded from school.”
SCHWEIGER, LAZEAR AND WARREN were members of Whitman’s varsity wrestling and football teams last year; Ashley played varsity football. Lazear, a running back and linebacker, was Whitman’s top offensive football player last year and was being recruited by Division I college programs.
“My kid’s a good kid. That’s all I can say right now,” said Harry Lazear, Patrick Lazear’s father and an assistant varsity football coach at Whitman.
At a preliminary hearing in Montgomery County District Court on Friday, May 26, Judge Mary Beth McCormick granted Schweiger, Lazear, Krouskas and Ashley continuances until June 16.