SOUTH PORTLAND — A man armed with a knife robbed a convenience store near Cash Corner late Wednesday night and returned to the area late Thursday morning, when he robbed a credit union, stole an idling car from a customer and totaled it in a spectacular crash, then fled on foot through a cemetery before he was captured, police said.

The still unidentified suspect was under guard Thursday night at Maine Medical Center in Portland, where police said he is recovering from injuries suffered when the car he stole struck a utility pole near the Dairy Queen restaurant at Cash Corner.

For now, South Portland police are calling the man a person of interest and said they will identify him once he has been formally charged with a crime.

“We have probable cause to charge him,” Sgt. Adam Howard said.

A car that police say was stolen after a nearby credit union robbery shattered a utility pole and landed on its roof at Cash Corner in South Portland. Judy Hill/Staff Photographer

Police said the string of crimes began around 10:07 p.m. Wednesday when the man entered the Irving Circle K gas station and convenience store, 690 Main St., and threatened a clerk with a knife. The robber fled on foot with a small amount of cash, police said in a news release. The Circle K is within a few feet of Dairy Queen.

Around 10:11 a.m. Thursday, the same man entered the Town and Country Federal Credit Union, 557 Main St., armed with a knife, police said. He demanded cash and fled with an undetermined amount of money. He then stole a Nissan Altima that belonged to a patron of Town and Country and drove from the scene at high speed.

Moments later, South Portland police started getting reports of a car that had left the road, crashed through a utility pole, and struck another vehicle before landing on its roof. Witnesses told police that the male driver fled on foot, heading north on Route 1.

“Several bystanders, including the driver of the vehicle that had been hit, pursued the suspect into the nearby Walgreens parking lot, and ultimately into the Calvary Cemetery,” Detective Sgt. Christopher Todd said. South Portland police joined in the pursuit, apprehending the man a short while later.

“It is believed that all three incidents are related,” Todd said of the two robberies and car crash.

The motor vehicle crash and subsequent foot chase disrupted traffic in the congested Cash Corner intersection for several hours.

Lt. Todd Bernard said the suspect was taken to Maine Med with unspecified injuries. No one else was injured in the crash, and police said the owner of the stolen vehicle was not inside when the crash took place.

The car, a silver Nissan Altima, belonged to Bill Talley of South Portland, who had parked across the street from the credit union and was walking across Main Street toward it when he was passed by a large man in sweat pants carrying a knapsack who had just exited the building walking in the other direction.

The man walked past Talley, went directly for his running car, got in and drove away. Talley, still shocked, kept walking toward the bank, but the staff had locked the door.

A woman inside the bank met him at the door, and Talley told her the suspect took off with his vehicle. She motioned for Talley to come around to the drive-thru window, and she slipped him her phone through the teller window and he called police, Talley said.

“The next thing I knew the cops were pulling up in the parking lot,” Talley, who turns 36 on Friday, said in an interview. “I told the officer what had happened, and I could hear in his cruiser (on the police radio) that the car had hit a pole.”

Talley said he first thoughts were with the bank employees, who he hoped were unharmed, and with the man who robbed them. His car was destroyed, but Talley said it was not worth his or anyone else’s life.

“It was awful, but I’m thinking back about it, if he hadn’t stolen my car, he might have hurt somebody else. He might have threatened somebody else,” Talley said. “I pray for that man. If he’s stealing that money, he obviously needed it. I said a little prayer that I hope he gets whatever he needs, not the money.”

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