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Man who disguised his identity to avoid capture pleads guilty to armed robbery at Bemidji store

DULUTH - A 21-year-old Redby man pleaded guilty here Monday for the armed robbery late last year at Bemidji's Newby's Market.

Jason Lee King pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to one count of interference with commerce by robbery and one count of using, carrying, and brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.

In his plea agreement, King said he stole approximately $1,476 from the store Dec. 30, 2011, while threatening a store clerk with a loaded, short-barreled shotgun.

According to a law enforcement affidavit filed in the case, the market was robbed just before 9 p.m. by two masked men armed with a shotgun and a knife. After the robbery, the men fled in a blue pickup. Officers responding to the robbery saw and pursued the truck, which was then abandoned by two men who fled into the woods.

King and a juvenile male were ultimately found and taken into custody. Officers recovered the 20-gauge shotgun in the wooded area, along the route the men had taken. Inside the pickup truck, police found $1,420 in cash, a black ski mask, several Newby's Market receipts and a check made out to Newby's Market.

A sentencing date has not been set. King could be sentenced to life in prison for brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence, and 20 years for the interference with commerce by robbery.

There is no parole in the federal prison system.

Before his federal indictment on the robbery, King escaped custody Feb. 21 while being transported from the Beltrami County Jail to Sanford Bemidji Medical Center.

At the time, King was shackled and not handcuffed. He slipped from the shackles and ran off, across the hospital campus. At one point, he lost a shoe.

Bemidji and Beltrami County officers tracked him in the snow to a residence on Irvine Avenue, from which he allegedly stole a red pickup and headed north out of Bemidji.

A Red Lake police officer saw the pickup enter the reservation on state Highway 89, north of Bemidji, and gave chase. King drove 90 mph, forcing other vehicles off the road, going to Redby then ending up on forest trails on the southern reaches of the reservation. He crashed the truck and ran into the woods near the south boundary of the reservation.

King remained on the lam for 10 weeks until early May, when Red Lake Department of Public Safety officers arrested King following a high-speed pursuit south of Redby.

Responding to a suspicious vehicle, officers chased the vehicle before it stopped. Red Lake officers followed two of the occupants into the woods and arrested them.

At the time, officers didn't know King was a passenger in the vehicle and law enforcement couldn't easily identify him because he had changed his appearance.

While King was in the Beltrami County Jail, he had floppy black hair with a dark mustache and goatee. Those facial features weren't visible at the time of his May arrest and officers used tattoos on his body to identify King.