Police are searching for two men they say are behind a series of increasingly violent armed robberies in Seattle and South King County in the past few weeks. The men are suspected...

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Police are searching for two men they say are behind a series of increasingly violent armed robberies in Seattle and South King County in the past few weeks.

The men are suspected of committing at least 18 robberies since Nov. 21, usually targeting convenience stores, coffee shops or other small businesses with few employees, police said.

“Any robbery’s scary, but these are worse than the average robbery,” said King County Sheriff’s spokesman Deputy Travis DeFries. “The trend we’re seeing is that they’re becoming more and more violent.”

In each of the robberies, a man walks into a store after dark, threatens the clerk with a small-caliber silver handgun, steals money from the cash register and runs off. His accomplice usually keeps watch from the door. They’re usually in and out of the store in under a minute, DeFries said.

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But in recent weeks, the robber has started pistol-whipping the clerk, police said. And in one instance, the man shot four rounds at another man who tried to chase after him and his accomplice.

“It makes me worry,” DeFries said. “It’s obvious now he has no qualms about using violence to get what he wants.”

The robbers have struck at least 13 times in Seattle, primarily in South Seattle, though they are also believed to be responsible for heists in Ballard and the University District, said Seattle police spokesman Sean Whitcomb.

The King County Sheriff’s Office is also investigating at least three cases they say they think are connected, and police in Renton and Kent each have one holdup they think the robbers committed.

None of the robberies was very lucrative, DeFries said: At most, the crooks got away with a couple hundred dollars each time.

Police are releasing video surveillance images and photos from the most recent robbery Monday night, in the 2800 block of East Madison Street, in an effort to track the men down.

The gunman is described as a tall, stocky black man, between 18 and 25 years old, with a light complexion and slight facial hair, according to police. He often wears a black face mask that covers his nose and mouth, and in several of the robberies, he’s worn a dark-colored puffy jacket with “The North Face” printed on the right rear shoulder, police said.

His accomplice is about the same age but is shorter, about 5-foot-5-inches, black with a dark complexion. Like the gunman, he wears a black mask that obscures his face.

The fact that police dogs haven’t been able to follow the robbers’ trail more than a few blocks indicates the men are probably parking a getaway car nearby, police said. They do not have descriptions of that vehicle.

Police say the two men are considered armed and dangerous. Anyone with information is asked to call 911, or contact Seattle police at 206-684-5535 or the King County Sheriff’s Office at 206-296-3311.

Jessica Blanchard: 206-464-3896 or jblanchard@seattletimes.com