Area home invasions target Asians, Indians


Published: Thursday, January 25, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 24, 2007 at 11:21 p.m.

Three recent home invasion robberies, all involving residents or business people of Asian or Indian descent, have Alachua County Sheriff's deputies questioning if the cases are linked or may be connected to a string of similar robberies in Marion County last year.

Alachua County deputies plan to meet with officers from the Gainesville Police Department, the Marion County Sheriff's Office and the Ocala Police Department to compare their cases with other agencies' investigations, said Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Keith Faulk.

"There are things that are kind of the same, but there are things that are kind of different," Faulk said about the three cases in the county.

The first robbery occurred last week on Jan. 17 when a man, his wife and their teenage son were robbed at gunpoint in their home on W. University Avenue at about 10:30 p.m., deputies reported. The three were forced to lie on the bedroom floor of their apartment while the lone gunman took an undisclosed amount of cash from the residence.

On Sunday night, two men smashed a rear sliding glass door of a home on SW 75th Way at about 10:45 p.m., according to the Sheriff's Office. Two adults were forced to lie on the living room floor while the robbers ransacked the house. They did not wake two children sleeping in the home. More than $2,000 of cash and jewelry was stolen. One of the robbers had a handgun.

Deputies received their third report of a home invasion robbery Tuesday night when a woman was attacked in her home on NW 42nd Road, deputies reported. Three men entered the home through an unlocked side door at about 11 p.m., a relative of the woman said. Two were armed with guns. The gunmen tied the woman to an office chair with duct tape while they rifled through the house. The woman also was hit in the head with an unknown object and had a minor injury to her forehead. The robbers escaped with an undetermined amount of money.

Residents who were victims in the attacks are either local business people or related to a business owner, deputies said.

Faulk said it's possible a group of robbers could be targeting Asian or Indian business owners, assuming that they are keeping money at their homes.

Marion County investigators dealt with a string of similar robberies from early October through the end of December, said Marion County Sheriff's Capt. Tommy Bibb.

The victims in these cases were restaurant owners or managers and also of Asian or Indian descent.

Bibb said officers found that many were not making night deposits from their business. They would go home, where they were attacked.

Deputies in that county ended up contacting all restaurant owners who fit the profile of the victims and cautioned them to make night deposits and to keep a careful eye on their surroundings.

"Don't go right into the house. Drive around the house. Drive around the neighborhood and look and see if there are any vehicles that shouldn't be there," Bibb said.

Residents also were told to check their homes to make sure windows and doors appeared secure before they entered the building.

Marion County has not had any similar cases since the winter holidays.

Faulk said Marion County had reported about 10 cases during the three-month period starting in October.

"These people are smart. They do their homework. They could be following these particular managers or owners home," said Bibb who speculated the robbers may have migrated to Alachua County.

The Gainesville Police Department also is investigating a home invasion robbery that occurred Sunday at about 9:20 p.m. on NE 17th Terrace. Three armed men dressed in black clothing and ski masks entered the home and asked, "Where is it?" They duct-taped a man at the home. Three children at the residence were directed to a bedroom. The robbers apparently left without taking anything.

Initially, investigators indicated this case could be related to the other home invasion robbery in the county Sunday. But, on Wednesday, they said it was unclear if there were any connections to that or the other robberies.

A local business owner who is Asian said Wednesday he hadn't heard about the robberies but planned to keep a wary eye on strangers both at work and after hours. The man did not want to identify himself or his business because he suspected the robbers might be coming to area businesses, following their victims home from work and then later targeting their residences.

University of Florida professor Ramakant Srivastava, who also is secretary of the India Cultural & Education Center, said some people had been talking about the earlier cases.

Srivastava said the organization was trying to make students aware of the robberies and planned on organizing a meeting with investigators.

Bibb said one of the best tips for residents was to immediately contact officers if they saw someone or something suspicious.

"If they see anything, back off and dial 911," he said.

Lise Fisher can be reached at (352) 374-5092 or fisherl@gvillesun.com.

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