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5 robberies mar first night of '99

Crooks struck three restaurants and a pair of convenience stores in a spate of robberies on the first night of the new year.

An employee at one location reported being threatened with a tire iron and an employee at another was threatened with a crowbar.

A suspect in one of the robberies was arrested, and stolen money was recovered.

"It is out of control right now," said Tim O'Neal, son of the ownerof Pizza Hotline in Hyde Park, one of the restaurants that was robbed. "It's crazy. We're at war with these people. It's so sad that these 17-year-old kids can put a gun to your head."

The first robbery occurred at 5:05 p.m. Friday at the McDonalds restaurant, 6505 S Dale Mabry Highway, where a man snatched a cash register drawer containing $257 off the counter and out of the hands of the restaurant manager, Tampa police said.

A witness watched the man as he entered a motel room a block away and alerted police, who said they arrested Gaylord Gene Peltier, 31, of 7113 Fairview Drive. The cash drawer and money were recovered, police said.

At 6:55 p.m., a man robbed the Pizza Hut at 3915 W Kennedy Blvd., raising a tire iron over his head, police said. An employee gave the robber an undisclosed amount of money from the cash drawer.

It was the first of two robberies involving a man wearing a blue denim jacket and a blue ball cap and brandishing a tire tool. Pizza Hut employees described their robber as 5 feet 8 and wearing a handkerchief over his face.

In the other robbery, minutes after midnight at the Farm Store, 3915 S Manhattan Ave., the robber wore similar clothing, police said. He was described as 6 feet tall, with a turtleneck shirt pulled over his face. The man had a crowbar.

Pizza Hotline was robbed at 11:31 p.m. as driver Ron Jenkins opened the back door to take out trash. Police reported two young men with T-shirts wrapped around their faces and a handgun ordered Jenkins back into the shop, where they robbed him and another employee.

The last of the five robberies occurred at 1:15 a.m. Saturday, at the 7-Eleven at 5616 S Dale Mabry. The store was robbed by a man wearing a brown cap and an army-style jacket, police said. He had a handgun tucked in his waistband.