BY CLIFF RADEL
The Cincinnati Enquirer
For five months, a group of vicious bandits has been preying on us. They rob at will and get their kicks by pistol-whipping their victims. No one and no neighborhood is safe from these thugs.
They work late at night. Toting guns and a tire iron, the crooks usually hit restaurants. But shoe stores, motels and drive-throughs also made the list of 30 armed robberies linked to this crew.
This week, they've struck three times. The latest robbery and beating took place early Thursday at the Homewood Suites in Sharonville. Worse than taking money, these crooks rob innocent people of their sense of security. They leave them feeling scared, hurt and angry.
"I feel violated," Brian Ferrell told me. He works at the Clean Scene, a Roselawn dry cleaner that was the bandits' first target. "These guys came in where they didn't belong, took what didn't belong to them. That was months ago. We're still shook up."
The string of robberies has also left a whole lot of cops itching to catch these bad guys before the violence gets even worse.
"These guys clearly enjoy their work. They enjoy beating on people," said Detective Sgt. Bill Fields of Springdale, home to eight robberies.
The detective has one wish for the robbers. "Since they get a real adrenalin rush when they hit someone, I only hope that their rush is just as great when we catch 'em, cuff 'em and throw 'em in jail."
Safety under siege
When the crooks are behind bars, Scott Armantrout wants to ask them two questions:
"Why did you have to hit my manager in the head? He gave you the money. He was laying on the floor. He was doing what you told him. Why did you drag him across the floor on his face?"
Scott owns the Domino's in Springdale. The restaurant was robbed in June. And, he thinks about the robbery every night.
"Right before I close up, I get a funny feeling that somebody's going to rush through the door," he said. "I can't get it out of my mind."
Removing such thoughts may take awhile. Memories of traumatic events are tough to erase.
"These crooks are taking over people's lives at gunpoint," explained Detective Fields. "They may hold them hostage for only two or three minutes. But living through that little bit of hell could leave a lasting impression on these people."
On Monday night, three bandits rushed into the Colerain Avenue LaRosa's just before closing time. They knew the restaurant's hours and the workers' patterns. They had thoroughly cased the place. They must do this before every robbery.
They are good at watching.
So are we. Let's turn the whole Tristate into a neighborhood block watch. Help find these crooks.
Somebody has seen them. They are black males in their 20s, medium build. On the job, they wear dark clothes, gloves and stocking masks. They might be found sitting in parked cars late at night, watching and waiting. You may have parked right next to them.
Someone has seen these guys go to work. They've been seen coming home, too. They're not invisible.
Somebody has heard one of them brag about hitting a guy who scrapes pizza sauce off plates for a living, who works two jobs to make ends meet, who was shivering in his own sweat while lying on the cold, tile floor of a restaurant kitchen, not putting up a fight. But he got hit in the head with a gun barrel just for fun.
It wasn't the first time they pistol-whipped somebody.
Let's make it the last. If you see somebody acting suspiciously in a parking lot, pick up your cell phone. Call the cops immediately. If you can help solve these robberies, call Crime Stoppers at 352-3040.
Somebody decent knows the lowlifes pulling these late-night stick-ups. I figure they'll have the courage to make the right call.
Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.