New MLT Mexican grocery store robbed

Jorge Sibaja in the store.
Jorge Sibaja in the store.

Story and photo by Doug Petrowski

For Jorge Sibaja, the opening of his new store represented years of laborious work and the opportunity to start something new. He still has a glimmer of hope in his eyes about this new start, but the gleam has lost some of its luster.

Sibaja and his family opened La Tapatia, a small convenience store in the 6600 block of 220th Street Southwest in Mountlake Terrace, on Nov. 21. A month later the store was robbed of more than $1,000 in cash at gunpoint.

Police report that a man in his 20s, approximately 5-6 to 5-8, entered the store a little after 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 22, displayed a firearm, emptied the cash register and a money box, then fled on foot. The suspect was wearing an orange construction vest, blue jeans, a blue jacket and a black beanie. Despite containment efforts by the Mountlake Terrace Police Department and tracking by the City of Edmonds K9 unit, the suspect got away.

Sibaja was not in the store at the time of the robbery; he was driving home from Los Angeles, on I-5 through Portland, when he received a phone call from his wife who had been manning the store with their daughter, age 16. Sabaja arrived at the store some four hours later to find this wife and daughter somewhat distraught from the incident.

“My daughter was crying,” he said. “She was upset about the money because we worked very hard. I always told her if we want something in the future we have to work very hard.”

A Mexican immigrant, Sibaja just recently moved his family to the Mountlake Terrace area from Los Angeles, where he had lived for 14 years and owned a landscaping business. “After a little money I saved in Los Angeles, then we moved to Seattle to start here,” he said. In addition to his wife and 16-year-old daughter, Sibaja has an 18-year-old daughter in her first year at the University of Washington.

Since the robbery, Sibaja is more determined than ever to make a go of it with the store, which specializes in Mexican and Hispanic goods, and handles wire transfers to foreign countries. He has installed four security cameras (the store had none before the robbery) and will be adding four more. He is also considering how to best protect his investment and his family.

The Dec. 22 robbery of La Tapatia was the second armed robbery on the block in nine days; on Dec. 13, the Subway restaurant on the opposite side of 220th Street Southwest was held up by a masked man with a gun at 3:50 p.m. The suspect — described as between 5-7 and 5-10 and wearing a white plaid shirt, black coat, black pants, a black beanie hat and a white bandana over the lower half of his face — escaped with an undisclosed amount of cash from the restaurant’s cash register. Police do not believe the two robberies are related.

Sibaja is holding out hope that the suspect in his store’s robbery will be caught. He thinks the robber had staked out his store prior to the incident because of his apparent knowledge of the money box. He also believes the suspect had a female accomplice who was waiting outside, and that the two of them fled east, away from the outdoor security cameras operated by a neighboring business, the Crazy Moose Casino.

“I hope they never come back,” Sibaja added.

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