Law enforcement officials are searching for two men who they believe committed five armed robberies early Wednesday morning in east Hillsborough County, in which all of the victims were female drivers. All five robberies happened between 3 and 5:30 a.m. and in most cases the women were forced off the road, said Jack Espinosa, spokesman for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.
The Sheriff's Office would not release any victims' names Wednesday, on grounds that they are witnesses in an active investigation. "These women are scared to death," Espinosa said.
Officials are looking for two white men in a blue-green, older model, full-sized car that could be a Chevrolet or an Oldsmobile, Espinosa said. Some victims said the men wore masks. One said one of the men had shoulder-length hair and a mustache.
The robbers used a handgun, a hatchet and a tire iron to threaten the victims, Espinosa said. In one case, a bullet was fired through a victim's car window. In another, a robber shattered the victim's car window with the handgun, Espinosa said. None of the victims was injured, he said.
The Sheriff's Office is investigating four of the robberies. The fifth occurred in Plant City and is being handled by the Plant City Police Department, Espinosa said. No one from the Plant City Police Department would comment.
Hillsborough deputies are advising women to avoid driving early in the morning until the suspects are arrested, Espinosa said.
Here is the information that the Sheriff's Office released:
The first robbery happened at 3:14 a.m. on Walker Road in Thonotosassa. The victim, a 25-year-old woman, was driving west when a motorist forced her off the road. A robber wearing a stocking mask shattered her car window with his gun and took her money.
At 3:25, an 18-year-old woman driving a Chevrolet on 70th Street in Tampa noticed that a car was following her closely. She slowed down to let him pass her, and he forced her car into a ditch. He carried a tire iron and a hand gun. He took her money and tried to grab her.
The third robbery happened at 4 a.m. on South Dover Road east of Brandon. The victim, a 31-year-old Lakeland woman, was driving a 1970 Dodge with a 35-year-old male passenger. The two had stopped at a grocery store when they noticed a car behind them. The car moved up beside them and hit their front fender, forcing them to stop. The woman was robbed at gunpoint of her money, wallet and a ring.
At 4:56, a 41-year-old Lakeland woman was robbed at Sam Allen Road and Country Meadows Boulevard near Plant City while delivering Lakeland Ledger newspapers to a mobile home park. As she stopped at the park entrance, a car pulled up and a man in the car pointed a gun at her through his window. He stole her money, then headed toward State Road 39.
The fifth robbery happened about 5 a.m. in Plant City and was being investigated by the Plant City police, Espinosa said. Espinosa said that there were two women in the car, and that the robbery is believed to be connected to the other four.