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Holdups, 9 others similar

In just over an hour Wednesday night, three gunmen robbed patrons in the parking lots of three motels in the Brandon area and one in Tampa, police said. Authorities believe the incidents may be related to nine other robberies between Jan. 19 and Wednesday morning.

The most recent spree started at 8 p.m. in the parking lot of the Economy Motel at 6606 Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd. There, two men struck a 62-year-old Erie, Pa., man in the head with a gun while the man was getting out of his car.

The man, who suffered a two-inch cut onhis head, was treated at Tampa General Hospital and released. The robbers stole his wallet.

According to police, one of the suspects was a black man in his 30s, 5 feet 10, 200 pounds, wearing a gray sweatshirt and dark pants, armed with a silver handgun. Another was a black man in his 30s, 5 feet 10, 200 pounds, wearing all-black clothing. A description of the third man was unavailable. The men drove off in a gray General Motors car.

Forty minutes later, a 67-year-old Sebring man taking a walk in the parking lot of the Red Roof Inn at 5001 U.S. 301 N was approached by three men. They pointed a gun at him and demanded that he turn over his wallet and jewelry. The man complied, and the three suspects drove off without hurting him.

The victim provided this description of the thieves to police: One was a black man, 29, 6 feet, 200 pounds, wearing light clothing and carrying a silver revolver. Another was a black man, 35, 6 feet 3, 190 pounds, wearing dark clothing. The third was a black man in his 20s, 6 feet, 200 pounds and wearing dark clothing. They were traveling in a dark-colored General Motors car, according to the witness.

At 8:45 p.m., two men and two women, all from Ontario, were robbed of their purses and wallets by three men in the parking lot of the Regal 8 Inn at 6510 U.S. 301.

According to descriptions provided by the victims, one of the assailants was a black man in his 20s, 5 feet 9, 180 pounds, wearing a light-colored jacket, jeans and a baseball cap, armed with a stainless-steel revolver. Another was a black man in his 20s, 5 feet 7, 150 pounds, wearing a jacket, jeans and a baseball cap. The third was a black man in his 20s, 5 feet 6, 145 pounds, wearing a jeans jacket, jeans and a baseball cap. The four victims said the suspects drove away in a gray General Motors car.

At 9:15 p.m., two 69-year-old women visiting from Illinois were robbed outside their room at the Red Roof Inn, 2307 E Busch Blvd. The right arm of one of the women was bruised when she resisted giving her purse to the two robbers.

The men then drove away in a waiting 1977 four-door Pontiac, police said. Police recovered the car, which was stolen from the Lake Thonotosassa area, at the scene of another robbery in the area of 30th Street and University Drive. As of Thursday evening, no arrests had been made in connection with any of the robberies.

Sheriff's officials said there were five similar attacks on guests of Tampa motels Jan. 19 and 21. They suspect that three convenience store robberies, a fast-food store robbery and another in the parking lot of an apartment complex, all of which took place Tuesday and Wednesday, may be linked.

Tampa Police spokesman Wiley Howell said motel robberies are more frequent in the winter, especially now during the Florida State Fair.

Robbers "go to the parking lots hoping to catch someone off-guard," Howell said. "The people are having a good time, they're not expecting something to happen to them on vacation. They'd probably be more careful if they were at home."

- Times staff writer Rachel Swarns contributed to this report.