Armed robbery target: Hispanics – Suspects linked to robberies in Hoover, Pelham, Alabaster, county

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Police are searching for two members of a trio of armed suspects that have targeted Hispanics in Pelham, Hoover, Alabaster and parts of Shelby County in a string of robberies that officials believe are linked.

One of the suspects was arrested by Hoover Police on Tuesday. He faces charges in Pelham, Alabaster, Shelby County and Hoover. Police would not release his name at presstime as the investigation is continuing.

Nine Hispanics were robbed at gunpoint in their Pelham home on June 16, according to Lt. Scott Tucker of the Pelham Police Department. Three suspects, including a white female, a black male and a white male, entered a trailer in Jonathan’s Trailer Park off of U.S. Highway 31 in Pelham shortly after midnight.

The suspects used a knife and two handguns and stole money and various personal belongings from the nine individuals living in the trailer, Tucker said.

&uot;These people came in on these guys and simply robbed them all,&uot; he said.

All nine victims were asleep as the suspects entered the home.

Pelham police are searching for a white man they have identified, while working on identifying the other two suspects. Pelham police sent a flier written in English on one side and Spanish on the other to various parts of the city, warning residents of the suspects and their method of robbery.

In Alabaster, the same suspects attempted to rob a group of Hispanics in their home on Kent Dairy Road on June 14. Lt. Fred Ott of the Alabaster Police Department said he thinks the suspects are the same ones involved in other area robberies against Hispanics.

Capt. Chris Corbell of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department said there have been four robberies against Hispanics in the south and western portions of the county within the past couple of weeks. Corbell said the robberies were similar to those in Pelham and Hoover, and he believes the same suspects were involved.

In at least one case, the suspects pretended to solicit Hispanics for day labor and odd jobs. Then, the suspects took the victims to another location and robbed them, according to Pelham Police reports. At least one victim from a robbery is still missing, police said.

On Monday, June 21, a man and a woman pretending to be looking for day laborers to do work for them abducted two men in the 3400 block of Lorna Road in Hoover in a robbery attempt, Hoover police said.

The suspects took them to Treeline Apartments, where one of the men, 30-year-old Victor Cruz, lives.

The woman accompanied Cruz to his apartment, where he went inside and slammed the door in her face. The couple then drove away with the other laborer still in their vehicle. The other man turned up several days later unharmed.

The flier distributed by Pelham police also includes a description of the suspects’ vehicles, which include a brown Ford Explorer and a green Jeep Grand Cherokee. Other vehicles possibly involved in the robberies include a green Nissan Frontier pickup truck and a green Chevrolet Avalanche pickup truck.

Tucker believes the suspects target Hispanics because they may or may not be documented residents.

&uot;(The suspects) probably figure (Hispanics) would be hesitant to notify police,&uot; Tucker said.

Also, some Hispanics are known to carry cash instead of depositing money into bank accounts, which also makes them prey to criminals.

Pelham police officials said they want to send the message to the Hispanic community to be careful, and to notify police of suspicious vehicles or individuals.

&uot;We just want to let them know to be careful,&uot; said Detective Eddie Carter of the Pelham Police Department, &uot;to use caution when they’re approached by somebody to do odd jobs. Don’t carry all of their money.&uot;

Laura Ramirez Drain, president and founder of the Hispanic Professional Women’s Association of Alabama, said part of her organization’s goal is to teach the Hispanic community to communicate with police. Drain said the perception that Hispanics do not deposit cash into banks and that they fear calling police continues to make them targets for robberies