TAMPA — Armed robbers demanding narcotics climbed a New Tampa CVS pharmacy counter Wednesday afternoon, grabbed a store manager by her hair and pistol-whipped her before fleeing with drugs, police said.
After the heist, the two men sped off in a Ford F-150 truck, crashed it along Interstate 75, brutalized a woman who slowed to help them, took her car, then carjacked a third woman's sport utility vehicle, before heading into Pasco County on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.
Tampa police said Wednesday night they had identified one of robbers — Miguel Antonio Torres, 30 — and issued a warrant for his arrest. Torres, also known as "Kane," has a tattoo of the name Teresa on his left arm, according to prison records.
Police also put out a statewide alert for the carjacked SUV, a 2007 Toyota Sequoia with the license plate X88ZXU. Anyone seeing it should call 911. The men are dangerous, Tampa police said.
Torres was released from prison in July after serving 21/2 years for aggravated assault with a weapon. His driver's license states that he's from Groveland, about 70 miles northeast of Tampa. Florida Department of Corrections records indicate that he planned to live in Orlando.
Video surveillance helped police identify him, spokeswoman Andrea Davis said. Investigators believe that in the video released to the public, he is the larger of the two robbers, the one who wore a black shirt.
The other man, who wore a blue shirt, was described as 5 feet 10 and 160 pounds, in his mid 20s, with facial hair, wearing jeans and a baseball hat.
The robbery took just 90 seconds, Davis said.
At the time, the CVS store manager was in the pharmacy. Once inside the partitioned area, one of the robbers demanded drugs. She told him she was not the pharmacist, Davis said. That's when he hit her with the gun.
Initially, the robbers fled the store at 6202 Commerce Palms Drive in a truck that had been reported stolen from Apopka (north of Orlando), Davis said.
Witnesses followed it onto southbound Interstate 75 and relayed the location to police.
The robbers exited at Fowler Avenue, where police lost sight of them. As they tried to re-enter the highway northbound at Fowler Avenue, the pickup flipped over, said sheriff's spokesman Larry McKinnon.
A woman driving a Toyota Solara saw the wreck and slowed to help. But the robbers approached her door, smashed her driver side window and pistol-whipped her before stealing her car, McKinnon said.
At Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, the robbers left I-75 and took the Toyota Sequoia from a second woman at the GTE Federal Credit Union at 20761 Center Oak Drive in New Tampa.
No serious injuries were reported, although the CVS employee and the Solara driver were hospitalized with minor injuries. Authorities did not release their names.
Judy Torres, the Sequoia owner, was parked in front of the credit union waiting for her 17-year-old daughter, who was inside banking.
She had been sitting for five minutes when a man opened her passenger door, pointed a pistol and told her to get out of the car, she said. She looked at him, perplexed at first, unsure why this was happening.
"His eyes were wide and his hand was shaking," she said. "He seemed nervous."
It took a minute for his request to register, then she got out of the car and saw a large man — carrying something big and black — get into the passenger side of her car before it sped away.
With them vanished her purse, her daughter's purse, both their cell phones and her daughter's laptop computer.
She heard that two other women had been pistol-whipped by the robbers and felt relieved that she had escaped unharmed. She was also glad that her truck had only a quarter-tank of gas, figuring the carjackers couldn't go far.
The CVS store wasn't the only one robbed Wednesday.
A man on a bike took an undisclosed sum after showing a gun at the CVS at 625 W Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Tampa just before 9 p.m. A witness had seen a Toyota Sequoia in the parking lot. But police determined that was a coincidence and the two crimes were unrelated. No one was injured in the second robbery.
Staff writer Robbyn Mitchell can be reached at (813) 226-3373 or firstname.lastname@example.org.