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Grand Forks man faces charges in two armed robberies

A two-week manhunt to find the perpetrator of eight recent armed robberies resulted in the early Wednesday arrest of a Grand Forks man named by authorities as a suspect in two of the incidents.

Grand Forks police and agents of the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation arrested Kyle Steven Pederson, 23, shortly after midnight at Budget Inn Express, 3400 Gateway Drive. He was staying at the motel but listed an apartment at 208 N. Ninth St. as his address when he was checked into the Grand Forks County Correctional Center.

Pederson was named the suspect in the Dec. 9 robbery of the Fairfield Inn in Grand Forks. That was the first of eight armed robberies of area businesses; six in Grand Forks, one in East Grand Forks and one in Mayville, N.D., that police say may be connected.

From the jail, Pederson made a televised district court appearance Wednesday afternoon for a Class B felony robbery charge in the Fairfield Inn heist. Pederson pointed out he has been "100 percent completely cooperative with the police" in the investigation and said he's "at the total mercy of the court."

Pederson also apologized. "I never meant anybody any harm," he said. "I'm real sorry."

Other charges

Besides the Class B felony charge in the Fairfield Inn robbery, Pederson will face extradition to Polk County at a Monday hearing to face charges for the Dec. 18 robbery of Orton's Point Tesoro in East Grand Forks. He is being charged with first-degree aggravated robbery in that case, a felony.

During the court appearance, Judge Joel Medd said Pederson would face a mandatory minimum sentence of four years in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted in the Fairfield Inn robbery because a handgun was used.

Pederson said his permanent address is 2101 Seventh Ave. N.W. in East Grand Forks, where he has lived since 1997. He said he was born and raised in the area, and his parents, three brothers and one sister, all live in town.

A preliminary hearing of Jan. 27 was set, but Grand Forks County State's Attorney Peter Welte said that would be too soon to allow Pederson to get an attorney, and "he has some issues in other jurisdictions, as well," so the date was moved to Feb. 10.

Welte said Pederson doesn't have a prior criminal record in North Dakota but asked the court to hold Pederson because he had made "admissions implicating himself in this case" and in "multiple other robberies."

Welte added public safety concerns should also be considered in the bail request. "We're asking that the court hold him right now," he said.

Pederson told the court he would need some time to line things up before starting a possible prison sentence. "I've got to take care of some things before I go," he said.

Based on the circumstances and the extradition hold from Polk County, Medd said Pederson would be held without bail.

When asked if Pederson would be charged with the other five Grand Forks robberies, Welte told the Herald that he could not comment on ongoing investigations. "It would be inappropriate, and I don't want to do anything to jeopardize the cases," he said.

Finding a suspect

Local law enforcement agencies were on the case for two weeks before an arrest was made. What started as an evening hotel robbery quickly became a series of heists that hit seven other businesses in the region and crossed into Minnesota.

The suspect's description varied slightly in each case, but some similarities began to emerge as the robbery streak continued: A young man 5-feet, 7-inches to 6-feet, 1-inch tall with a slim to medium build enters a business, displays a handgun and asks for money.

The race of the suspect was described as possibly white, Hispanic or American Indian, and some witnesses describe him as having brown eyes with dark, prominent eyebrows. The man usually wore dark clothing and covered his face with a ski mask.

Pederson became a suspect "through cooperation with citizens of Grand Forks" who called in numerous tips that connected his name with the hotel robbery, Police Capt. Kerwin Kjelstrom said at a Wednesday morning press conference.

Pederson stands 5-feet 11-inches tall and weighs 170 pounds, according to the jail. A police photo provided to media outlets shows he has brown hair, brown eyes and dark brown eyebrows.

The handgun or the money taken from the Fairfield robbery had not yet been recovered, Kjelstrom said.

He said the arrest was the result of good cooperation of several local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, including the Traill County Sheriff's Department, the U.S. Border Patrol, the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and UND Police.

"This has been strictly a team effort," he said. "Grand Forks we consider a safe community, and we are working to keep it a safe community."

Chief Mike Hedlund of the East Grand Forks Police Department told the Herald "this is an absolutely safe region," but local residents and businesses should still take safety precautions such as locking houses and vehicles and following tips to help make a business less likely to be robbed.

The investigation is still ongoing, and authorities are asking anyone with information on the robberies to contact their local law enforcement agency.