Summit man, accused of being Erie's lollipop bandit, charged in more Dollar General heists

State and Erie police said they suspected the same person was responsible for a string of store robberies, including four that hit Dollar General locations, in a roughly four-week span in Erie County beginning in late March.

Authorities have now charged the same man with committing all of them.

Summit Township resident Christopher R. Zapolski, 33, already in jail on charges in three of the heists, was arraigned Friday morning on charges of robbing Dollar General stores in Summit Township on March 22 and in Greene Township on March 26.

Summit Township District Judge Brian McGowan set Zapolski's bonds at $100,000 on each of the two new cases after arraigning him on charges including felony robbery and terroristic threats in each case.

Zapolski was already in the Erie County Prison on $325,000 in bonds in the other three robberies he is accused of committing. He is charged in those cases with robbing the Tops Friendly Markets at 1520 W. 26th St. in Erie on April 3, the Dollar General at 3875 Zimmerman Road in the city on April 7, and the Dollar General at 12674 Route 19 in Waterford Township on April 9.

In the Erie Dollar General robbery, investigators said the suspect bought a lollipop before using a gun to rob the cashier and fleeing with money and the lollipop.

In two of the Dollar General robberies investigated by state police, troopers said the suspect bought cat food before robbing the stores.

The new cases

The Pennsylvania State Police, in criminal complaints filed Wednesday and Thursday, accuse Zapolski of stealing a few hundred dollars from the Dollar General stores at 8214 Perry Highway in Summit Township on March 22 and at 8948 Wattsburg Road in Greene Township on March 26.

In the Summit Township case, troopers said he told a female cashier that he had a gun in his pocket and demanded all of the money from her cash drawer. The cashier told investigators that after taking the money, the suspect said, "I'm sorry for all of this," troopers wrote in the criminal complaint.

In the Greene Township case, troopers accuse Zapolski of pulling a gun on a female cashier after purchasing cat food and telling her that he did not want to hurt her, but wanted the money from the cash drawer. The cashier told troopers the suspect apologized to her as he left the store with the stolen cash, according to information in the complaint.

The apprehension

Erie and state police investigators said there were similarities in each of the five robberies that led them to suspect the same person likely committed at least most of them. The similarities included a white Audi that was suspected of being used as the suspect's getaway vehicle, according to information in the criminal complaints.

On April 9, following the Waterford Township Dollar General robbery, troopers who were responding to the store spotted a white Audi traveling north on Route 97 at high speed. An attempt was made to stop it, but a trooper lost the Audi after it turned onto Robison Road, according to information in the criminal complaint filed against Zapolski in the case.

Chase leads to suspect in store heists Erie police believe a Summit Township man charged with robbing a Dollar General store in Waterford Township while buying

A state police corporal later spotted the Audi along Route 97 and followed it to a gas station. When the corporal and other troopers went into the station, they were told that a man ran out a rear door, investigators reported.

State police impounded the Audi and found clothing the suspect wore during the Waterford Township robbery in the trunk. Troopers later apprehended Zapolski at a residence in Erie County, according to state police.

Zapolski was charged on April 10 in the Waterford Township robbery. He waived the charges he faces to court at his preliminary hearing on Tuesday, according to online court docket information.

Erie police charged Zapolski in their two robberies on April 11. He is scheduled to appear in court for his preliminary hearings later this month.

Contact Tim Hahn at Follow him on Twitter @ETNhahn.

This article originally appeared on Erie Times-News: Robberies: Erie's lollipop bandit charged in more Dollar General heists