5 arrested in Anchorage liquor store 'melee'

casey.grove@adn.comNovember 30, 2012 

Five would-be robbers assaulted a pair of liquor store employees and a pregnant bystander Thursday afternoon while trying to steal booze at the downtown store, according to Anchorage police.

"It was a veritable melee," police spokesman Lt. Dave Parker said.

Police said the suspects threw bottles at store employees at the downtown Brown Jug and knocked some bottles to the floor. An employee at the store, at 930 W. Fifth Ave., later said more than a dozen bottles of wine and hard liquor were destroyed, leaving broken glass and liquor spread over the floor.

Shortly after the incident, about 4 p.m. Thursday, police arrested twin brothers Trevor and Torrence Barras, 20, brothers Izacc and Malotumau Tuinei, 20 and 18, respectively, and Sandra Blix, 18. All five face felony robbery, assault and criminal mischief charges.

According to a charging document filed in court Friday, a store manager said three of the suspects -- it's unclear who, specifically -- had come into the store and stolen alcohol earlier in the day. The two sets of brothers returned later and, police said, Trevor Barras tried to steal another bottle.

"The guy looked at one of the employees and said, 'I'm takin' this,' " Parker said.

When the store manager, Eric Whisman, and another employee, Marlen Moore, told the men to put back the alcohol and leave, Trevor Barras hit Moore in the face with a bottle of tequila, according to police and the charging document. Surveillance video showed Torrence Barras and the Tuinei brothers hitting the liquor store employees with fists and bottles, while the employees tried to protect themselves and fight back, the charges say.

A former store employee, who is pregnant, had stopped in for a visit just before the fight started, Parker said. She called 911 on her cellphone when the fight broke out and "got socked in the face" by Trevor Barras as he was leaving the store, Parker said.

Medics took Whisman and Moore to a hospital, where they were treated for broken facial bones. The pregnant witness did not seek medical care, Parker said.

"They made a complete mess of the floor," Parker said. "They destroyed a lot of alcohol."

The group left the store with some booze, including the bottle of tequila and a case or half-case of some other beverage, Parker said.

Officers arrested the five suspects at the entrance to the J.C. Penney parking garage about four blocks away with the help of Anchorage 5th Avenue mall security guards, who responded from their office nearby, police said. Blix, who was not seen in the store's video, had three bottles of alcohol in her purse, the charges say.

At their bail hearing later Thursday, the Barras twins attempted to assault arresting officers and had to be restrained, police said. Charges in that incident are still pending.

Four of the accused robbers appeared in court Friday and requested public defenders. Malotumau Tuinei had apparently been uncooperative before the arraignment hearing and was removed before it started, a judge said. Bail was set at $50,000 for each of the Barras twins and $25,000 for Blix.

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