Robbery suspect spray-paints face for disguise, dies

Published: Aug. 22, 2009 at 3:00 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 27, 2009 at 3:51 AM EDT
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Thomas James (Source: Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center)
Thomas James (Source: Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center)
Michael Thomas (Source: Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center)
Michael Thomas (Source: Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center)

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Richland County deputies say a man spray-painted his face in order to disguise himself during a robbery, but died after he had trouble breathing after the robbery.

Sheriff Leon Lott says on July 31 at around 7:00pm 23-year-old Michael Gregory Thomas and  24-year-old Thomas James entered the Sprint PCS store on Sparkleberry Lane, pulled out a guns and demanded money.

Lott says the two men stole wallets, purses and credit cards from employees as well as money from the store before ordering the employees into a bathroom while both men fled.

Lott says Thomas James spray-painted his face in order to conceal his identity during the robbery. Investigators later learned that after the robbery took place, James began having trouble breathing and died.

Witnesses from the store identified Michael Thomas as one of the robbers, and Thomas was arrested on August 17, taken to the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center and charged with armed robbery.

Richland County Coroner Gary Watts says they are running toxicity tests on James and are waiting for them to come back to learn James' cause of death. Watts said it will take a couple of weeks before the tests come back.

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