GARDINER — A city man suspected of robbing a Rite Aid pharmacy on Spring Street Thursday morning was arrested nine hours later following a manhunt in the woods.

Jesse Mansir, 31, of Gardiner, was charged with robbery, a class B felony, in connection with the pharmacy robbery, according to Gardiner Police Chief James Toman.

Mansir has several criminal convictions in Kennebec County stretching back a decade, including drug possession, assault, disorderly conduct and theft, according to published court records.

The pharmacy at the corner of Spring and Bridge streets was held up at 10:35 a.m. by a man who passed an employee a note demanding prescription drugs and saying he had a gun, but he didn’t show one, said Toman.

After the robber was given an undisclosed amount of prescription drugs — Toman wouldn’t specify what kind — he fled on foot toward Spring Street. Police attempted then to track him using a dog, but the trail ended behind an Irving gas station and convenience store nearby on Highland Avenue, where a pill bottle was dropped, Toman said.

“During the day, we developed a suspect and at about 5 p.m., our investigation led us to believe the suspect was hiding in a wooded area off Harrison Avenue,” Toman said.

Harrison Avenue was closed off as Maine State Police and Gardiner police — 15 officers and two dog teams — searched in the woods. They spotted Mansir about 7:10 p.m. after tracking him with the dogs, and detained him at gunpoint, police said. Mansir did not resist arrest, Toman said.

Mansir was taken to the Gardiner Police station for questioning, where he was charged and later taken to the Kennebec County jail in Augusta.

“It was good teamwork and a job well done,” Toman said.

Earlier in the day, the robber was described as a white man with blondish brown hair, between 5-foot-6 and 5-foot-8 and weighing between 170 and 190 pounds. He was estimated to be between 25 and 30 years old and was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt with white lettering and navy blue cargo pants, Toman said.

The Maine State Police, the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI and the Maine Department of Corrections assisted city police Thursday.

Thursday’s robbery was the third in the Augusta area this month after no pharmacy robberies since November.

Monday, the pharmacy at the Goggin’s IGA on Water Street in Randolph was robbed. No suspect has been identified in that robbery , which was almost directly across the Kennebec River from the Gardiner one. That robber was described as a white man approximately 5-feet-11 and weighing 160 to 170 pounds.

Toman said it’s possible that the Thursday and Monday robberies are linked.

On Wednesday, police said they were seeking Thomas G. Bourque, 31, of Belgrade, in connection with an Aug. 3 robbery of the Rite Aid in Manchester.

Before the Aug. 3 Manchester robbery, the last pharmacy robbery in the area occurred at the Osco pharmacy at Shaw’s supermarket on Augusta’s Western Avenue, which was robbed twice in two days. A Gardiner man pleaded guilty to those robberies in April.

The Gardiner Rite Aid was last robbed in 2012, and a 16-year-old was charged in connection with the robbery, in which nobody was injured.

There were a record 58 pharmacy robberies in Maine in 2012, and Augusta had a statewide high of nine. But the number of those crimes have plunged since, which some in law enforcement have attributed to heroin becoming a cheaper substitute for people addicted to prescription painkillers.

Kennebec County Sheriff Randall Liberty said the trends have continued, with his office’s field interviews indicating heavy heroin use paired with a downward trend of prescription drug abuse over the last few years.

“I don’t see it trending back up,” he said. “I don’t at all.”

Staff writer Craig Crosby contributed to this report.

Michael Shepherd — 370-7652

[email protected]

Twitter: @mikeshepherdme

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