Sunday, May 20, 2018
Public safety

Fear, anger remain for Wood Fired Pizza manager robbed at knifepoint

ST. PETERSBURG — Days after a man stormed into her restaurant, bound her hands and held a knife to her back, Tich Robinson is still terrified.

Robinson, 38, the general manager of Wood Fired Pizza at 344 First Avenue S, has tried to keep the business running as usual. She started carrying pepper spray. She told her staff not to leave doors unlocked after closing or to stay too late cleaning.

Still, she can't shake the thought that the man who robbed the popular nighttime hangout a week ago in downtown St. Petersburg is still out there.

"It was after-hours, late at night," Robinson said. "This person was waiting for that."

Police released a surveillance video Friday of the March 24 robbery, hoping that someone might be able to identify the man who attacked Robinson and another employee as they prepared to close.

It had been a good day for business, Robinson said, with the Honda Grand Prix drawing many customers to the downtown area. And it took the robber all of about three minutes to steal their earnings.

Robinson was counting the money in a rear office at about 3:30 a.m. The other employee, a dishwasher, was taking a set of linens out to the parking lot when the robber confronted him with a hunting knife. He bound the dishwasher's hands behind him, forced him inside and kicked him to the floor. Then he came into the office.

He yelled at Robinson to open a safe, towering over the 5-foot woman as he held the knife above his head. She backed against a wall.

He turned her around and bound her hands with a zip tie. She told him she had tripped a silent alarm and he slammed her onto a desk.

"He was getting mad at me because I kept saying it," she said. "I was just trying to get him out of here."

Robinson could feel the knife at her back. At one point, he held it against her throat, she said. He shoved her under the desk before raiding the safe. He yelled for her to stop looking at him.

He kicked the other employee a few times before running back outside. As he left, Robinson followed with her hands still bound, twisted around and locked the door. Moments later, she managed to dial 911.

Police described the robber as a white man, in his mid to late 20s, about 5 feet 10. He had what appeared to be acne scars on his face, a light mustache, and wore a dark hooded sweatshirt. Police believe he might have fled on a bicycle.

Robinson saw part of the surveillance video, but can't bring herself to watch the whole thing again. A week later, she still gets emotional talking about it. She is frightened, she said. More than that, though, she is angry at the nameless man who targeted the business she has helped run for more than a year. "I was so mad because we had been here all day and it was a long day," she said. "I love this place. I believe in it."

Anyone with information about the robbery can call St. Petersburg police at (727) 893-7780. Tips can also be provided anonymously at (727) 892-5000.

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