TAMPA — Some people can't keep off their cellphone even when they're busy working.
A man dubbed the "Shattered Window Bandit" because he broke the windows of fast-food restaurants during armed robberies was arrested after detectives tied his mobile phone to cell towers near the robbery sites, U.S. Attorney Robert O'Neill's office said Tuesday.
Demetrius Renaldo Bowers, 28, of Tampa was charged by federal authorities with a string of eight armed robberies of various fast-food restaurants in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Hernando counties from Sept. 23 to Nov. 4.
Court records are unclear about whether the restaurants were opened or closed at the time of the robberies, though employees were present. Also unclear is whether the windows were broken to gain entry.
Bowers could have just as easily been dubbed the Pizza Bandit.
The restaurants included a Papa John's Pizza on Gunn Highway in North Tampa, a Pizza Hut on East Bay Drive in Largo, a Domino's Pizza on Spring Hill Drive in Spring Hill and a second Pizza Hut on Busch Boulevard in Tampa, among others.
Investigators were first able to identify Bowers after the Sept. 23 robbery of the Papa John's in North Tampa. About 175 yards from the restaurant, investigators found a discarded ski mask.
The mask was sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which was able to find a DNA sample. They matched the DNA to Bowers, who has previous convictions of robbery, burglary and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Then investigators checked a bill-payment service Bowers used and learned he had a cellphone registered with a name investigators say might be fake: Young Strizzle.
Walton Lanier, an agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said in an arrest affidavit that investigators decided to check with Bowers' cellphone carrier for what the industry calls "tower hits."
A hit occurs on a specific cell tower when a call or text message is sent or received by a phone.
Such hits might provide a suspect with an alibi if, for instance, a cell-tower hit in Guam occurs at the time of a robbery.
Bowers was not in Guam.
William R. Levesque can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3432.