A Standish man’s Thursday morning crime spree, which included trying to steal an ambulance from Maine Medical Center and three armed robberies, came to a messy end when a McDonald’s worker doused the man with hot coffee as he stole a cash register, police said.

Officers descended on St. John Street at 6 a.m., and Paul Schlosser tried to escape by climbing into the passenger side of a car stopped at a nearby ATM. He ordered the motorist to drive off, but the man refused, and moments later police took Schlosser into custody.

Chief James Craig said Schlosser’s spate of armed robberies was driven by his need for drugs, and investigators are exploring whether he may be responsible for a series of unsolved crimes in the West End.

Craig declined to release photographs of Schlosser, a baby-faced 25-year-old with short blond hair, because police may ask victims if they can identify him in a lineup.

Officers had been on the lookout for Schlosser ever since a reported knifepoint robbery at Cumberland Farms on Pine Street shortly after midnight.

A man had entered the store, threatened the clerk with a knife and fled with cash in a red Subaru that had been reported stolen a few days earlier, Craig said at a news conference. He said officers recognized Schlosser on the store’s security video.

“It should be noted that Schlosser over the past five years has been arrested 30 times for crimes (such as) burglary, theft, possession of drugs, probation violation and driving offenses,” Craig said. “We got a bad guy off the street.”

A Maine Medical Center security guard heard police discussing the case on his police radio and at 1 a.m. spotted the Subaru, abandoned, on hospital property.

At 2 a.m., a Westbrook rescue worker told police that someone had tried to steal her ambulance from the emergency room parking area but ran off when she discovered him, police said. Police identified the man as Schlosser from a hospital security video.

Officers were called to the Circle K at 393 Commercial St. at 3 a.m. for another armed robbery report, and again security video appeared to show Schlosser, Craig said.

Schlosser showed up at McDonald’s on St. John Street at 6 a.m. and, holding a knife, demanded cash. The clerk refused. He went behind the counter, headed for a register, when a female clerk tossed hot coffee on him, Craig said.

Undeterred, Schlosser tried to pry open the register with his knife, and failing that cut the wires connecting it to the counter, police said. He dropped the knife and took the register outside, smashing it on the ground in an effort to open it. He fled as police arrived.

Craig said it was fortunate no one was hurt in the spree, and he praised the work of Officers Michael Galietta, Henry Johnson, Chris Dyer and John Roberts in taking Schlosser into custody without incident.

Schlosser is charged with three counts of robbery and one count of attempted unauthorized use of a vehicle. He is being held on $50,000 bail in the Cumberland County Jail.

Craig said Schlosser admitted to using drugs, including cocaine, and stealing to support his habit.

Craig said crack cocaine is one of the dominant drugs in Portland and he plans to push for stiffer penalties for possession. A person can possess two grams of crack cocaine or 14 grams of powder cocaine and the charge is still a misdemeanor.

Craig said he plans to work with prosecutors and legislators on making it a felony to possess the highly addictive drug — which he believes is at the root of many property and violent crimes. 

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

dhench@pressherald.com