Two arrested after attempted robbery at Panera in Westport

WESTPORT — Two Bridgeport men were arrested for allegedly plotting to rob a local Panera Bread, police said.

On Oct. 25 at 8:54 p.m., officers responded to a report of an attempted robbery at the Post Road East eatery. By the time police arrived, the suspect had fled.

According to police, the suspect entered the restaurant, approached an employee with a box cutter, instructed the employee not to move and walked them to the rear of the establishment past other employees. The suspect then returned to the front of the store, where they unsuccessfully attempted to open the cash registers and an office. The individual then left through the front door, police said.

During an investigation, it was discovered the target of the robbery was a wallet containing over $7,000 in cash that had been found and stored in the manager’s office earlier that day. A Panera employee, who was present on the night of the incident, had also communicated with the robbery suspect, police said.

An arrest warrant was subsequently granted for the employee, identified as 32-year-old Horace Rawlings.

Police also identified Rochelle Smith, 24, in connection to the incident. The two had allegedly formulated a plan to have a third individual arrive at the restaurant pretending to be the owner of the wallet. Police have not named the third suspect.

On Thursday, Bridgeport police reported having Rawlings in custody. He was later brought to the Westport Police Department, where he was charged with first-degree criminal attempt at robbery, third-degree criminal attempt at larceny and first-degree conspiracy at robbery. Rawlings was unable to post $200,000 bond and was taken to state Superior Court in Norwalk.

Smith turned himself in for the active warrant on Thursday and was charged with third-degree conspiracy to commit larceny and third-degree criminal attempt to commit larceny. He posted $50,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in state Superior Court in Norwalk on Jan. 23.