A suspect in eight violent grocery store robberies in Metro Vancouver has been arrested attempting to enter the U.S.

The robberies, which began in March 2012, occurred at gunpoint at grocery stores and other businesses across Vancouver, North Vancouver and Burnaby.

The most recent robbery took place Dec. 1 at a busy Vancouver Toys “R” Us.

Security cameras captured the store manager getting pistol-whipped in the head.

“He kept fighting with my manager, hit him in the head with the gun and then ran out the door,” said cashier Alex Bodnaruk, who witnessed the robbery.

After police made that footage public in a plea to identify the robber, they received a tip that the suspect may have been a Squamish resident.

But their investigation was cut short when the suspect, 68-year-old Thomas Schwartz, was arrested at the Douglas Border Crossing on Dec. 15. Schwartz reportedly arrived at the border in a taxi.   

“He used his U.S. passport to try and get back into the country,” said VPD Const. Brian Montague. “I don’t know what his status was in Canada, but it was not a citizenship status.”

Police had an outstanding warrant for Schwartz from the ‘70s for allegedly deserting the U.S. Air Force, where he served as a Staff Sgt. Reports show he crossed into Canada in June of 1972, and police believe he’s been in the country ever since.

Residents of Squamish say Schwartz managed an electronics store in the town until it closed in March, and went by name Tom Stone.  

Montague said police believe he legally changed his name, but don’t yet know when.

Schwartz is now in the custody of U.S. military at SeaTac, but the Canadian government is asking for his return to B.C. to face robbery and weapons offences charges.

His extradition hearing is set for March.

With a report by CTV British Columbia’s Lisa Rossington