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A gunman robbed a Bailey Avenue gas station of as much as $18,000 early today, locking an attendant and the owner in a refrigerated room before driving away with two cohorts, police said.

The robbery occurred about 5 a.m. when a man wearing sunglasses and a cap and armed with a long-barreled pistol led the owner of the Mobil Mart at 3444 Bailey Ave. into the cold room and left him handcuffed.

He then ordered the attendant to open the store's safe, police said.

As his two companions waited outside, the gunman also smeared what may have been Vaseline on the lense of the store's monitor, possibly circumventing any chance police had of identifying him, said Lt. Robert Whalen of the Kensington Station.

The gunman then scooped between $15,000 and $18,000 of the store's weekend receipts out of the safe and locked the attendant in with the owner, Whalen said. They were freed 20 minutes later by a customer who heard their calls for assistance, said the owner, who asked that his name not be used.

"No one was injured, thank God. That's the major thing," the owner said.

"Certainly, it's tragic that during the holiday season that something like this can happen."

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