ELLSWORTH — An unusual set of circumstances surrounding the purchase of a gun proved to be crucial to an investigation that led to the arrest of the man police say robbed a city store last week.
Nathaniel R. Isaacson, 20, of Ellsworth was arrested Thursday and charged with robbery and terrorizing in connection with the June 9 robbery at Mike’s Country Store.
The robbery occurred around 2:30 p.m. June 9, when a masked man walked into the store and demanded money from the clerk on duty. The man made off with the contents of the cash drawer, though the exact amount of money was not disclosed.
Detective Dotty Small said she got a call from a gun shop the day after the robbery because employees were concerned about the sale that day of a shotgun.
“That’s what started the ball rolling,” said Small.
Gun shop staff told Small that Isaacson had stopped in on Sunday before the robbery took place and expressed interest in purchasing a 12-guage shotgun.
Told the gun he was looking at cost just over $200, Isaacson said he didn’t have enough money to buy the firearm.
About a half-hour after the robbery, Isaacson reportedly called the gun shop and said he now had the money he needed to buy the gun. Told the shop was closing for the day, he said he’d be in the next day to buy the firearm.
Small said Isaacson did return to the store on Monday and paid for and picked up the shotgun. Small said the circumstances around the purchase, however, “seemed unusual” to store staff, especially after learning about what happened at Mike’s.
“When they heard about the robbery, they called us,” said Small.
Police Chief John DeLeo said on the department’s Facebook page that Small “worked on this investigation non-stop since the robbery” took place. The tip from the gun store led to further investigation and Isaacson’s eventual arrest on Thursday afternoon.
Isaacson allegedly sawed off the barrel of the shotgun after purchasing it, according to Small, though not enough to make it illegal. Small said the law requires that a shotgun have a barrel of at least 18 inches, and that Isaacson’s gun met that requirement even after he sawed part of the barrel off.
Small said both parts of the gun were retrieved and are being stored at the police station. She said Isaacson told her he sawed the barrel off the gun.
The gun was not involved in the robbery at Mike’s, Small said. Information gathered during the investigation, however, suggested Isaacson “had intended to commit a new crime” — apparently another robbery — with the gun.
Small said noted that as a 20-year-old, due to federal law, Isaacson is not old enough to buy a handgun. Anyone over 18, though, can buy a so-called “long gun,” a rifle or a shotgun.
Though Isaacson has had several encounters with Ellsworth police in recent weeks — a previous theft charge and three car crashes on High Street — he was apparently surprised when Small contacted him asking about the robbery.
Small said Isaacson told her he had recently had a problem with police in Penobscot County over an alleged red light violation, and when she contacted him he asked if it was about the red light issue.
Isaacson also told Small he has theft charges pending against him in Penobscot County.
Isaacson’s first appearance in police news in recent weeks came after police said he walked into a local convenience store (not Mike’s) and allegedly stole “at least five” York Peppermint Patties collectively valued at $1.75.
For that alleged offense, Isaacson was summoned on a charge of theft and warned not to return to the store. He was also charged with violation of conditions of his release from a previous charge.
On June 1, Isaacson was involved in two separate car crashes on High Street — one at Kentucky Fried Chicken and the other in front of Midas Muffler.
He was summoned on a charge of failure to maintain control of a motor vehicle as a result of the second crash.
On June 11, two days after the robbery at Mike’s, Isaacson hit a pickup truck near China Hill on High Street after he said a third vehicle forced its way between his car and the truck, forcing him to veer sharply and then overcorrect.
Isaacson was not charged in connection with that crash, and Small said no information or evidence relating to the robbery was gleaned from that incident.
Isaacson’s criminal record predates his most recent incidents, including at least one prior theft charge in Hancock County.
As of Friday evening, Isaacson remained in jail on the most recent charges that he is facing.