August 3, 2006
Deputies in both Richmond and Aiken counties are looking for two men who've been holding up stores at gunpoint.
Adding urgency to this search: officers think the pair will strike again soon.
Aiken officers believe the two men are responsible for four robberies in Aiken County, and that they may be linked to five or more robberies in Richmond County in the past two months.
Aiken authorities believe the two men robbed an Aiken Chinese restaurant at gunpoint Tuesday night and got away with nearly $500.
The Bluebell Grocery, the Friendly Mini Mart, the New China Buffet, and most recently the Formosa Chinese restaurant were all robbed at gunpoint in the last four weeks. Aiken County authorities believe all the crimes are linked.
"The motive that these two individuals are using is very similar and the establishments they are choosing are very similar," says Sgt. David Turno of Aiken Public Safety.
North Augusta and Aiken police are looking for two black men in their late teens or early twenties. The suspects wore bandannas around their faces to conceal their identities, and a silver handgun is their weapon of choice.
All four establishments were robbed near closing time, and officers say they're all run by Asian or Indian owners.
Niren Patel was working the night Bluebell Grocery was robbed.
"He started grabbing all the money, and he said not to move, and since they had guns, we didn't do anything but to let them have the money," he says.
The two men got away with $2000. Patel says the men seem to be choosing to rob smaller stores with low security.
"I think they know that we run our stores by ourselves, and we work from morning to evening, and pretty much we won't do anything, and they know that too."
Sgt. David Turno says the two may also be robbing places in Georgia.
"Certainly it's happened in the past. There's not much travel distance between here and Augusta, so it's very simple for them to drive from these places and work in these areas."
And several Richmond County robberies fit the pattern. The Richmond County Sheriff's Office is currently working several armed robberies, and they believe at least five are connected.
But Sgt. Turno is confident the men will be brought to justice.
"They will make a mistake and we'll catch them."
Authorities are urging anyone with any information on these two suspects to call local law enforcement immediately.
Investigations often focus on getaway cars, but in this case the pattern varies. Some of the times the men have fled on foot, and other times one of them drove. Richmond County investigators believe they're switching their pattern. Sometimes only one of the two will commit the crime.
Crime Stoppers of the Midlands is offering a reward from $50 to $1000 for any information that leads to an arrest.