Subway, smoke shop robbery suspect appears in court

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A 21-year-old woman said she robbed two Vancouver businesses at gunpoint last week because she owed money for past drug purchases, according to a court affidavit.

The suspect, Celena M. Afemata, “said she did not intend to hurt anybody,” Vancouver police Detective Barbara Knoeppel wrote in the affidavit, filed in Clark County Superior Court.

The Vancouver woman appeared in court Monday on suspicion of two counts of first-degree robbery. Judge John Nichols held her on $200,000 bail and appointed Vancouver attorney Brandy Jeffers to defend her. She is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges March 21.

Afemata apparently had worked at the Subway store she’s accused of robbing March 4 and had trespassed at Mary Jane’s House of Glass, which was robbed late Friday, according to the court affidavit.

The first holdup occurred March 4 at the Subway store, 3415 S.E. 192nd Ave. The robber, wearing black clothing and a ski mask but no shoes, entered the store at 9:38 p.m.

According to court records, a 24-year-old employee was working alone. The robber told the employee that she had a gun and was going to rob the store. The employee opened the store’s safe and filled a sandwich bag with about $344 in cash. The suspect then demanded that the employee walk her out of the store through the store’s office.

The employee said she could feel something poking into her back and heard what sounded like a “trigger click,” Knoeppel wrote. The suspect ordered the employee to get on her hands and knees and then ran away, court records say.

Afemata is a former employee of the Subway store and was terminated about a year ago, according to Knoeppel.

After Afemata’s arrest, the employee was shown a photo lineup of 12 women with only their eyes and nose visible, to mimic the effect of the ski mask, and she identified Afemata as the likely robber, according to court records.

Three days later, on Friday, a robber wearing black clothing and a mask entered Mary Jane’s House of Glass, a smoke shop at 8312 E. Mill Plain Blvd., about 10:38 p.m. The robber pointed what appeared to be a handgun at a male manager and male sales associate.

“Give me all the money,” the robber said, according to court records.

The robber handed them a drawstring bag, which the men filled with about $200 in cash, court records say.

Vancouver police Officer Frank Gomez responded to the robbery and checked the area for suspects. The victims had described the robber as a man of possibly Asian descent.

Gomez saw Afemata driving a silver Pontiac G6 sedan with no headlights and initially thought the driver was an Asian male, according to court records. He stopped the vehicle but then confirmed that Afemata was female, so he let her go, court records say. Later, when he reviewed surveillance footage of the robbery, he noticed that the suspect looked female. He mentioned this to the manager and that he’d just pulled over an Asian woman, court records say. The manager asked whether the woman’s name was Celena, as he had had issues with her in the past, including trespassing, court records say.

Police contacted Afemata at her workplace, and she agreed to go to the Vancouver Police Department’s West Precinct for an interview with police, court records say.

During the interview, she allegedly confessed to both robberies and gave police directions to the location where she had discarded clothing and a black handgun used in the robbery.

The items were recovered in a dumpster at a Chevron store parking lot in Camas, court records say. The weapon was determined to be an unloaded pellet gun, Knoeppel wrote.