General Crime

* Former Santa Rosa Cop Robert Starling And His Friend Andrew Esslinger Arrested For Armored Car Robberies

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Aug 26, 2009 CHARGES FILED IN SONOMA AND MARIN ARMORED CAR GUARD ROBBERIES

A former Santa Rosa police officer and his alleged accomplice were charged in Sonoma County Superior Court this afternoon in connection with the robberies of four armored car guards at banks in Sonoma and Marin counties since 2007.Robert Stephen Starling, 35, the former patrol officer, and 26-year-old Andrew Cooper Esslinger, both of Santa Rosa, did not enter pleas in court this afternoon. They are being held under $1 million bail in the Sonoma County jail and will have a bail hearing Sept. 2. Starling is charged with 11 counts, including robbery, conspiracy to commit a robbery, brandishing a firearm at a witness, making a false report to police and with enhancements alleging personal use of a firearm, Deputy District Attorney Marianna Green said.Esslinger is charged with six counts, including robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery and making a false report to police.Both men were arrested Monday.Santa Rosa police said the robberies of the guards occurred at the Exchange Bank in Santa Rosa on Sept. 27, 2007; at the Bank of America in Santa Rosa on April 23, 2008; at the Bank of America in Novato on April 15; and at the Bank of America in Sebastopol on May 18.No money was taken in the Novato robbery because the stolen bank bag was empty, police said.The felony complaint charges Esslinger with the robberies in Sebastopol and Novato and Starling with all four robberies. Santa Rosa police said the men stole more than $400,000 and used it for personal items and travel. The false report to police charges involve calling Novato police before the robbery on April 15 to report a kidnapping to divert police from the bank and calling the Rohnert Park Public Safety Department on March 18 to report a gun on the campus of the Rancho Cotate High School. There was no robbery of an armored car guard in Rohnert Park that day but the school campus was locked down for several hours.Starling was a Santa Rosa police patrol officer between December 2000 and April 2001 when he left voluntarily and took a job with the Sonoma State University Police Department.  He was rehired to the Santa Rosa force in May 2003 and left voluntarily in July 2006. Santa Rosa Police Chief Tom Schwedhelm said this afternoon he was disappointed with Starling because he made a commitment to law enforcement and then turned to crime. He said Starling’s job performance “did not meet the expectations of a Santa Rosa patrol officer.”

Copyright © 2009 by Bay City News, Inc. — Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City  News, Inc. is prohibited.

Santa Rosa police have arrested a former police officer and another man in connection with the robberies of four armored car guards at banks in Marin and Sonoma counties since 2007 in which more than $400,000 was taken.Former Santa Rosa police officer Robert Stephen Starling, 35, and Andrew Cooper Esslinger, 26, both of Santa Rosa, were arrested in separate traffic stops in Santa Rosa’s downtown area on Monday, Sgt. Lisa Banayat said.Both men also are suspected of falsely reporting a kidnapping in Novato on April 15, and falsely reporting that there was a gun on the campus of Rancho Cotate High School in Rohnert Park on March 18, Banayat said. The school was locked down for several hours because of the report.Starling was a patrol officer between December 2000 and April 2001, Banayat said. He left the force and was rehired in May 2003, then voluntarily left in July 2006, Banayat said. She would not disclose the reasons for his departure, saying it is a personnel matter.The first armored car robbery occurred on Sept. 27, 2007, at the Exchange Bank at 499 Stony Point Road in Santa Rosa, Banayat said. A man approached a Loomis Armored Transport guard as he was transferring money to the bank, pointed a gun at him and told him to get on the ground. The man then took a bag of money from the armored car and fled in a truck driven by another person, Banayat said.On April 23, 2008, a Brinks armored car guard was transferring money to the Bank of America at 2420 Sonoma Ave. in Santa Rosa when a man dressed like a gardener ran toward him with a gun, Banayat said.The suspect pushed the guard to the ground, grabbed a bag of money and ran across the parking lot, Banayat said. No vehicle was seen.The third robbery occurred April 15 at the Bank of America at 1600 Grant Ave. in Novato, Banayat said. In that case, a man approached a Brinks armored car guard who was entering the Bank of America with a bank bag. The suspect pointed a gun at the guard, took the bag and ran. The bag was empty, however, and the suspect discarded it, Banayat said.Just before that robbery, Novato police had received a 911 call from someone reporting a possible kidnapping in Novato, Banayat said. Police later determined that the call was false and meant to divert police from the area of the bank, Banayat said. On May 18, a Brink’s guard was robbed in front of the Bank of America at 7185 Healdsburg Ave. in Sebastopol, Banayat said.The suspect approached the guard, showed a gun and grabbed a bag containing cash, then fled in a car with a getaway driver, Banayat said.No one was injured in any of the robberies, Banayat said.Since the four robberies were so similar, Santa Rosa police led the entire investigation,Banayat said.Police determined that calls had been made on Starling’s and Esslinger’s cell phones in the areas of the robberies and that the cell phone used to call Novato police was associated with both men, Banayat said.Police presented the investigation to the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office and $1 million arrest warrants were issued for Starling and Esslinger, Banayat said.Esslinger was arrested for the Novato and Sebastopol armed robberies and Starling was arrested for all four armed robberies.Esslinger and Starling also were arrested for making a false
report of an emergency and using a mask or disguise to commit a felony.Banayat said the investigation is continuing. Both men are to be arraigned in Sonoma County Superior Court Wednesday afternoon. They are being held in the Sonoma County jail in lieu of $1 million bail.

Copyright © 2009 by Bay City News, Inc. — Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.

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