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Willmar man facing armed robbery charges makes first court appearance

WILLMAR -- The 20-year-old suspect in a February armed robbery of Willmar Auto Plaza allegedly told police he had been planning the robbery for half a day because he needed money to go out with his friends.Court documents allege Martin Salinas, o...

WILLMAR - The 20-year-old suspect in a February armed robbery of Willmar Auto Plaza allegedly told police he had been planning the robbery for half a day because he needed money to go out with his friends.
Court documents allege Martin Salinas, of Willmar, got away with $1,645, a $768 cell phone, and a cell phone case worth $128.
Salinas made his first appearance Monday in Kandiyohi County District Court. He is facing charges of first-degree aggravated robbery and theft, both felonies.
A store employee reported the robbery to Willmar police around 8:15 p.m. Feb. 13. The employee told police that he had been closing up the store when a man tried to enter the just-locked front door.
Thinking the man was a late customer, the employee unlocked the door for him.
As soon as the employee opened the door for the man, the man showed him what looked like a gun covered with a bandana.
The man then demanded money from the till and the back room, grabbed a carton of cigarettes and told the employee to hand over his phone and lay on the floor.
As soon as the man left, the employee drove to a nearby store to call 911.
The employee told police he recognized the man as Salinas, and that they had gone to school together.
According to the criminal complaint on the charges, video surveillance footage confirmed the employee’s account of the events.
In a Feb. 22 interview with a Willmar detective at the Wright County jail, where Salinas was being held on unrelated drug and traffic charges, Salinas first denied participating in the robbery.
He allegedly gave an alibi witness who later directly contradicted his prior statements about his whereabouts on the day of the robbery.
Salinas admitted to the robbery in a later interview and said he had a BB gun with him at the time.
He remains in custody at the Wright County Jail. His next hearing on the robbery charges is set for May 12.

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