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Robbers strike several fast-food restaurants

At least eight area restaurants have had early morning robberies. Authorities expect the two men to attempt more.

By AMY HERDY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 8, 2002


TAMPA -- Armed robbers are prowling fast-food restaurants in the Tampa Bay area, officials say, looking for more than a late-night snack.

In the past week, seven restaurants in Tampa and one in St. Petersburg have been struck during early morning hours, apparently by the same two men.

Officials say they are armed, and work as a team.

"One comes in, usually wearing a mask. The other drives," said Hillsborough sheriff's Lt. Rod Reder.

No one has been injured. Descriptions of the men provided by witnesses are usually the same: Black, about 5 feet 10 to 6 feet, thin build, dark complexion.

The restaurants have all been places that remain open late, if only with drive-through service.

"It's not our job to curtail business, but we need people at the fast-food places to be alert," Reder said.

"There's always a chance they'll drive through the lot once or twice, looking for police, how many customers, how many employees," he said.

Descriptions of the robbers' vehicles have varied, Reder said, so there's a good possibility they are stolen.

In at least two of the robberies, one of the men approached a drive-through window on foot, pointing a handgun at the clerk.

In one instance, a robber actually climbed through the window to get inside the restaurant, Reder said.

During a robbery at the McDonald's on N Florida Avenue, the employees were robbed and then ordered into a walk-in freezer.

Reder said he hopes anyone at a fast-food restaurant who notices something suspicious will call police.

He does not think the rash of robberies is over.

"Chances are they're doing it for drugs," he said, "so they'll need more money soon."

-- Amy Herdy can be reached at (813) 226-3386 or herdy@sptimes.com.

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