SPRING HILL — Deputies are looking for two people who stole a motorcycle from a driver at gunpoint outside a Spring Hill supermarket Tuesday evening.
The incident has led the Hernando County Sheriff's Office to warn merchants about an increase in robberies. Merchants are also being asked to contact authorities if someone calls pretending to be a law enforcement officer.
In the most recent robbery, the Sheriff's Office said someone called the Publix supermarket at 4365 Commercial Way around 8:47 p.m. Tuesday and identified himself as a deputy sheriff. The caller said that a motorcycle that was parked along the front of the building had to be moved.
The store management contacted the owner of the motorcycle and told him about the call. When the man went out to move his motorcycle into a parking space, a brownish four-door sedan, possibly a newer Toyota Camry, quickly drove up to him.
A white male wearing a black ski mask jumped out of the front passenger seat of the vehicle armed with a shotgun. The gunman yelled for the man to get off the motorcycle and leave it running, which the man did before going back into the store. The gunman threw the shotgun in the car, pushed the motorcycle east through the parking lot then drove north. A female in the car drove south.
The victim's motorcycle, a blue and white 1999 Yamaha with Florida tag 98AEZ, has not been recovered.
The incident follows two other armed robberies in recent days at local stores. Deputies were called to the BP station at 13075 Spring Hill Drive a little after 11:30 p.m. Sunday and then to the Circle K at 14195 Elgin Blvd. about 4 a.m. Monday.
According to the Sheriff's Office, in each of those cases, one of the robbers approached a clerk with a single-shot shotgun and demanded money and cigarettes. The robber then provided the clerk with a black drawstring sling bag and a duffel bag.
In the first robbery, at the BP station, one of the robbers fired into the store. Deputies said the robbers were possibly getting around in a four-door vehicle with tinted windows and a missing hubcap on the front passenger-side tire. The robbers also were wearing ski masks.
Authorities think the two convenience store robberies are connected because of similar methods and weapon.