At first, the man who entered a 24-hour Harlem check-cashing store early on Dec. 24 appeared to be simply holding a beverage.
But instead of eggnog or cinnamon latte, the tall white cup that the man carried into the Pay-O-Matic branch on Broadway near 136th Street at 1:45 a.m. contained a flammable liquid, the police said.
The man proceeded to throw the cup’s contents under the cashier’s window at the lone cashier and demanded money as he threatened to light the cashier on fire, the police said. The cashier was not injured.
On Monday, the police released video of the robbery, captured from three surveillance cameras and edited together to create a crude if cinematic portrait of an unusual criminal episode.
The overnight worker had been on the job only a short time, said a daytime cashier reached by phone on Monday who declined to give her name. She said that since the robbery, he had been assigned to another location of the Pay-O-Matic chain.
In the video, a man can be seen carrying a cup to the counter and entering the cashier’s area, which the daytime worker said is kept locked and must be buzzed open for someone to enter. The man reaches toward the cashier with something and walks out with a bag that the police say was full of money, though they did not say how much.
The thief, described by the police as being in his 40s and of average height and weight, has not been identified. Anyone who can help solve the crime is asked to contact Crime Stoppers.