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Alleged Fake Bomb Ploy to Rob West Lebanon Store Fizzles

As the timer on the bomb ticked down to zero, Walgreens pharmacist Donald Rastani briefly thought about making a run for it. But, whether due to courage or fear or a gut instinct, Rastani stayed at his post Wednesday, and soon learned that the danger posed by the man across the counter, who allegedly said he had a bomb strapped to his chest and would blow them both up, was not what it seemed.

The “bomb” was a fake and Stanley P. Sousa, 22, ran away at the first hint that his alleged ploy to steal drugs wasn’t working as planned. Police officers found him a few hours later, hiding under a pile of clothes in a friend’s basement, with his fake bomb in a laundry basket.

Yesterday, Sousa, of West Lebanon, and two alleged accomplices all appeared in court to answer to charges for the attempted robbery of prescription medication at the West Lebanon pharmacy.

Sousa, who was arrested in Hartford, was ordered extradited to New Hampshire after appearing in Windsor Superior Court.

His alleged accomplices, Debra Pitts, 27, of Lebanon, and Brian Lewis, 21 of West Lebanon, both appeared in Lebanon Circuit Court on charges of conspiracy to commit a felony, and were held on $10,000 bail. (In New Hampshire, defendants don’t enter pleas to felony charges during an initial court appearance.)

It was allegedly a team effort: Police claim that Pitts wrote the note that Sousa passed to Rastani demanding drugs and that Lewis strapped the device to Sousa’s chest.

The team, authorities said, was able to fashion a somewhat realistic-looking bomb: It consisted of metal cylinders and wires, and was attached to a cell phone that displayed a timer counting down to zero.

“It could have appeared real enough to a person not experienced in them,” Lebanon Police Capt. Tim Cohen said yesterday. “It had enough there to alarm anyone.”

A Walgreens’ manager declined to comment inside the West Lebanon store yesterday, referring all questions to the corporate office. Rastani could not be reached for comment.

Affidavits filed by Lebanon and Hartford police officers give the following account.

Around 4:45 a.m. Wednesday, Sousa walked up to the pharmacy counter and gave Rastani a note that demanded prescription drugs and claimed that he was wearing explosives that would detonate if his demands were not met.

Rastani recognized Sousa from previous visits to Walgreens, and began asking Sousa questions. Sousa then lifted his sweatshirt, showing what appeared to be a bomb strapped to his chest.

Undaunted, Rastani refused to hand over any medication. Instead, he told Sousa to leave, and tried to call 911.

That apparently was enough to scare Sousa off his plan, and he bolted out of the store.

Lewis and Pitts were quickly taken into custody, though officials did not provide details of their arrest.

Sousa was at large for a few hours, before Lebanon Police Lt. Phil Roberts learned that he was likely hiding at a friend’s home in Hartford. Officers then went to the Quechee-West Hartford Road home of Josh Fogg.

In the basement, Fogg told police that Sousa had left several hours earlier.

But police noticed a jacket on a clothes hanger that was swinging back and forth, near a hanging bedsheet that was used as a partition. They pulled back the sheet, and took Sousa into custody.

Mark Davis can be reached at mcdavis@vnews.com or 603-727-3304.

CORRECTION

This article has been amended to correct an earlier error. The following correction appeared in the Wednesday, Feb. 20 edition of the Valley News.

Stanley P. Sousa allegedly strapped a fake bomb to his chest during an attempted robbery at Walgreens Pharmacy in West Lebanon. A story in Friday's Valley News included an incorrect reference to the person wearing the fake bomb.