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St. Petersburg police need help to nab robbers

ST. PETERSBURG — Police need help from the public and the media to capture the pair of gunmen who shot and robbed two brothers this week.

Police released surveillance videos of the shootings of Narendra and Indravadan Patel. Police hope publicity surrounding the separate attacks will result in leads and suspects.

But police have also kept other aspects of their operations — specific details of the crimes, what they're doing to find the shooters, how they're protecting convenience stores — to themselves to avoid tipping off the suspects.

Here is what police did say:

There are 10 detectives assigned to the case, from the homicide and robbery units investigating leads.

"We're talking to people in the surrounding areas who may have seen someone loitering in the area," said Maj. Michael Puetz. "In most cases the suspects have some degree of familiarity with the environment they're working."

Those detectives are sharing what they know with other agencies, Puetz said, to see if anyone else has "a piece of the puzzle."

St. Petersburg investigators have been talking to their Hillsborough counterparts about several violent robberies there, but no links have been made yet.

Forensic teams worked both crime scenes. Gloves were used in both robberies, but the gunmen could have still left traces of themselves at the crime scenes.

Masks were worn in both robberies, too — but that doesn't automatically render the gunmen completely unrecognizable.

"People will display characteristics that may make them identifiable to people who know them well," Puetz said.

Police described the pair of gunmen in each robbery as black men, both in their early 20s or younger, about 6 feet 2 and 190 pounds. In each case, one stood lookout while the other attacked the owner.

Narendra Patel was shot and robbed Monday at his store on Fifth Ave. N but has since been released from the hospital. Indravadan Patel, who was shot Wednesday in his store at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N, remains in critical condition. But his family said Friday that he appeared to be improving.

By publicizing the attacks and videos, police hope the level of violence will motivate the public to help.

Sometimes such violence can even spur someone close to the perpetrators to come forward, like someone who sees a young relative out of control.

Police hope the publicity will help solve the case, but they acknowledge it could lead them to go into hiding or even escalate their crimes. "They might think they're heading down the wrong path, that they might get caught," Puetz said. "But other people …they like the attention."

Jamal Thalji can be reached at thalji@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8472.

Fast Facts

Got a tip?

Anyone with information about the robberies is asked to call the St. Petersburg Police Department's homicide unit at (727) 893-7164 or call (727) 893-7780.

On the Web

To see surveillance camera video of the second shooting, go to video.tampabay.com.

St. Petersburg police need help to nab robbers 12/05/08 [Last modified: Sunday, December 7, 2008 9:48am]
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