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Authorities say a Duluth man robbed three separate shops at knifepoint in the city over the course of about 24 hours.

Austin M. Nichols, who turns 26 this weekend, was charged in St. Louis County District Court Friday with three counts of first-degree aggravated robbery. The Duluth Police Department arrested him Tuesday evening, after asking for the public's help in connection with one of the robberies.

All three robberies took place in close proximity to one another:

  • CVS Pharmacy at 1205 East Superior St.
  • Walgreens at 1131 East Superior St.
  • Jimmy John's at 5 South 13th Avenue E.

In the CVS robbery, the criminal complaint says Nichols approached the cashier just before 6:40 p.m., pulled out a knife, and asked for money. The cashier gave him $100-$200 from the register and he left, the charges state.

The next day, Nichols tried something similar at the Walgreens at about 7:30 p.m., according to the charges. He came up to the cashier with a box of crackers and asked for a pack of cigarettes, then, when asked for an ID, took out a knife and demanded money, the charges state.

The cashier told him she was locked out, so he ordered her to close the sale and open the till — "at which point she turned the screen to [Nichols] and told him to do it," the charges say.

He then fled with the Marlboro cigarettes, the complaint states.

While Duluth police responded to that incident, they got a call about a robbery at the Jimmy John's. According to the charges, a cashier said a man approached and asked the worker what their favorite sandwich was, only to pull out a knife and demand money. The cashier didn't see the knife and responded by saying, "Are you serious," then called a second employee to the front.

Nichols then grabbed the tip jar from the counter and left, the charges say.

Officers saw a man matching the robbery suspect's description walking a few blocks away on South Street and arrested him, finding an unopened pack of Marlboro cigarettes and cash on him, according to the charges.

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A couple of the witnesses had trouble identifying Nichols in a lineup, but investigators say security footage from the robberies shows him wearing the exact same clothing as when he was arrested, and note he had items matching what was stolen in his possession, the complaint says. Police also believe they have the knife he used, according to the complaint.

Nichols is out on conditional release, according to court filings. He's due back in court on March 15. 

All three aggravated robbery charges are felonies, each carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years if convicted. Nichols was also charged with misdemeanor shoplifting last year, and misdemeanor theft earlier this year.

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