Police blame men with assault rifle for string of St. Petersburg robberies

ST. PETERSBURG — Two men with an assault rifle committed six robberies in less than an hour Tuesday morning, police said.

The men, who remain at large, used two stolen cars — a white sedan and a maroon minivan — to move quickly from victim to victim, police said.

The pair used the AK-47-style weapon to threaten a 15-year-old girl and her grandmother, two individuals on their way to the hospital, two juveniles, a vendor and a barbershop owner and his son, police said.

A man doing laundry in his garage was shot in the ankle when he tried to grab the gun from one of the men, police said.

Police said the incidents all happened between 5:11 a.m. and 6:02 a.m.

The first robbery took place near 20th Avenue S and Seventh Street. The victims, who were leaving home to go to the hospital, said two men got out of a white Mercury Sable and demanded money. When they told the men they didn't have anything on them, one of the suspects tapped the other on the shoulder and they left, police said.

They drove down a block to 19th Avenue S, where a 15-year-old and her grandmother were at the Frank Pierce bus station waiting for a school bus. The girl and her grandmother told police that one of the men, wearing a black bandanna over his face, approached them with an assault rifle and demanded their belongings.

The elderly woman gave them her purse; the girl, her backpack full of school books, police said. The two men got back in the car and sped off.

Minutes later, the gunmen approached a man who was doing laundry and smoking a cigarette in his garage at 4530 Fourth St. S, police said.

The door was open. One of the men walked in, pointed the gun at the victim and ordered him to take off his pants, police said. As the man pulled his pants down, police said, the gunman began to lower the rifle. The victim dived for the gun and grabbed the barrel. He was shot in the left ankle.

The gunman ran to a maroon minivan waiting for him, police said.

The two then drove to 18th Avenue S and 49th Street, where schoolchildren were walking. The juveniles said they ran away after two or more men exited the minivan with a gun.

The next report came in from the Mystic Gas Station, at 1501 34th St. S, where a vendor said he got out of his vehicle and saw a maroon minivan pull into the gas station. The vendor told police that as he approached the front door, a man with an assault rifle approached him and demanded his wallet. When he questioned the gunman, police said, the suspect fired one round in the man's direction.

Although the bullet did not hit anyone, it blew through the rollup front door of the business, police said. That's when the victim threw his wallet to the ground. The gunman collected the wallet and drove away.

Finally, police said, the two men made their way to Sports Cuts Barber Shop, 3166 18th Ave. S. The owner and his son were approached by two men with what they described as AK-47 rifles, police said. The gunmen ordered the father to take his pants off and hand over his wallet, which contained cash, IDs and credit cards. The two men left in the maroon minivan, police said.

Police have found the two stolen vehicles used in the crimes.

Officials have released only a general description of the men: Both are black and thought to be in their early 20s.

Police blame men with assault rifle for string of St. Petersburg robberies 10/26/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 26, 2011 10:44pm]

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