Alejo Santana returned Monday night to the People's Food Co-op, barely a year after being sentenced to probation for robbing the store while pretending to have a gun.
Again, he demanded money, claimed to have a gun and threatened the clerk, according to police reports.
“I will kill you, and you will be hurt,” he said.
It was almost the same line he used in 2009 — with the same clerk.
This time, the clerk told him to get out. An off-duty sheriff’s deputy in the checkout line made sure.
Larry Klahn is a part-time deputy and martial arts instructor. He had just finished teaching a class at his Three Rivers Martial Arts studio and stopped in for some grapes when he heard the attempted robbery in the next aisle.
He called it in on his cell phone and followed the suspect outside.
“He kept saying, ‘Stop following me,’” Klahn said.
Klahn said he explained that police were on the way, and Santana would be arrested.
Santana, 49, was charged Tuesday in La Crosse County Circuit Court with attempted armed robbery with threat of force. Because of his criminal history, Santana faces a sentence of up to 26 years if convicted.
He is being held on a $50,000 bond and probation violation.
Police arrested Santana in August 2009 after a similar stickup at the co-op, in which he claimed to have a gun and threatened to “hurt or kill people” if he didn’t get their money.
Santana, who spent nearly 10 years confined to a state mental hospital, had to be treated before doctors declared him competent to stand trial. He told a psychiatrist he committed the robbery in hopes of being sent to prison.
“I feel more happy in prison,” he said, according to court documents.
Judge Todd Bjerke sentenced him in March 2010 to 15 years probation and ordered him to maintain contact with mental health providers.