TARPON SPRINGS — Although the gunman wore a mask during a home invasion robbery Thursday, his Albanian accent gave him away. That, and the fact that one of his robbery victims was a friend who recognized his voice.
That's what police say led to arrests in the robbery, which took place about 7 a.m. in an apartment at 127 N Pinellas Ave., near Tarpon's downtown shopping district.
Police say four masked men kicked in the doors of the apartment, beat up a 19-year-old man and held two other people at gunpoint. They stole drugs and $600 in cash that was hidden in a nightstand.
Two brothers — Agostin Qosaj, 18, and Ndue "Andy" Qosaj, 17 — were arrested Thursday night when they showed up at their own home, 2631 Country Grove Blvd. in Palm Harbor. Tarpon Springs police officers were staking out that house, waiting for them.
Both are charged with home invasion robbery and aggravated assault. Agostin Qosaj is also charged with aggravated battery. Police say he hit his 19-year-old victim on the forehead with a rifle stock, causing massive bruising and severe swelling.
"The victim identified the suspect by recognizing his voice, as the victim and suspect were good friends at one time," says an arrest report for Agostin Qosaj. "The suspect is of Albanian descent, and speaks with a slight accent."
The home invasion wasn't a random act, said Tarpon police Capt. Jeffrey Young. Another arrest report adds: "The suspect was also at the victim's home recently, and was aware of the money in the home."
After the robbery, the masked men drove off in a black vehicle.
During the investigation, one of the robbery victims, a juvenile, was arrested when detectives found a stolen gun and two other suspected stolen guns in the apartment. The youth was taken to Pinellas County's Juvenile Assessment Center.
Later, after arresting the Qosaj brothers about 6:45 p.m. Thursday, detectives found a black Honda Accord parked two blocks away from their house. Police suspect it was the car used during the home invasion.
Also, on Friday police got a tip about the location of the rifle that was used in the robbery. Detectives say they found the rifle in a juvenile's bedroom in Tarpon Springs, where it was hidden after the robbery.
Later Friday, two more teens, ages 15 and 15, were charged in the home invasion.