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Robbers Stun Upscale Areas : Bold Thieves Bring Fear to Two Districts

Times Staff Writer

In upscale Lemon Heights and Villa Park, where a pair of masked bandits carrying a stun gun and a pistol are terrorizing residents, signs warning intruders about burglar-alarm systems are showing up everywhere.

And some are taking more extreme measures.

“We’re ready for them,” said Michael Sebastian, 37, hinting darkly of vengeful violence. “Yesterday, I went to the shooting range myself--just to be ready.”

At 10:30 Sunday night, two masked men slipped through an unlocked second-story window at a house across the street from Sebastian’s own plantation-style home in the 10000 block of Old Ranch Circle in Villa Park.

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The husband was shocked seven times by a stun gun jabbed into his chest, Sebastian said. The family and visiting friends were forced to lie on the downstairs floor as the bandits ransacked the home for 45 minutes.

(Stun guns send a powerful electrical charge that can temporarily disable a person. They can be legally sold and owned in California.)

Escaped With Jewelry, Guns

The men escaped in the owner’s 1987 Mercedes-Benz with $10,000 in jewelry, $250 cash, two handguns, a rifle and a shotgun, a Sheriff’s Department spokesman said.

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The car was found abandoned a few blocks away, the engine running and doors open. The men escaped.

It was the fifth armed robbery since Sept. 2 in the two communities, where half-million-dollar homes are not uncommon. Police have no suspects and are advising residents to lock their doors and windows.

The latest three attacks are thought to be the work of the same two robbers. However, the two previous robberies, also at night, may be the work of other bandits, officials said, because no stun gun was used.

“I think people are really paranoid,” said John C. Barton, who lives in the 9000 block of Villa Isle Drive in Villa Park, where bandits robbed a neighbor at gunpoint in mid-September.

“Everyone is a lot more cautious and aware. A lot of them are getting alarms and letting their dogs stay inside.”

Carl Odain, 54, who lives on Old Ranch Circle, keeps a gun nearby in case the robbers return to his street. “I’m scared,” he said. “I fully intend to protect myself. I have an 86-year-old grandmoth

er and a 16-year-old daughter here. I feel very threatened.”

Officials have contacted police agencies in surrounding counties and cities for leads but have come up empty-handed, a Sheriff’s Department spokesman said. Some residents speculated Wednesday that the robbers may have been working with a third accomplice acting as a lookout.

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Law enforcement officials declined Wednesday to reveal any details turned up in their investigation.

“We have no known suspects, but because of the similarities, we feel it is the same people,” Lt. Richard J. Olson, spokesman for the Sheriff’s Department, said of the cases involving stun guns.

Olson said residents should lock their doors and windows, even when they’re at home, and make sure their alarm systems work if they own one.

“If people see anyone or anything suspicious, they should call us right away,” he said. “We’re making an all-out effort.”

Each of the last three holdups have followed the same pattern: The robbers came in the night, but only when people were at home. One man has been described as 5 feet, 10 inches to 6 feet tall, while his companion is a few inches shorter. They wore masks, gloves and dark clothing.

They shocked a man with a stun gun and fled with jewels and money in the owner’s car before abandoning it and escaping in another car parked nearby.

Two of the victims were doctors.

In an interview Wednesday, one of the victims, who asked not to be identified, shrugged her shoulders and described the family’s ordeal as “really nothing more to say. Terrifying? It was disgusting. Oooh, I’d like to get them.”

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Couple Watching TV

The stun-gun robbers are believed to have first struck at 10:30 p.m. Sept. 21, while a couple watched TV in their home in the 9000 block of Hunting Circle.

The robbers entered through an open bedroom window. They attacked the husband and wife with a stun gun before taking jewelry, $26 in cash and driving away in the couple’s Chevrolet Blazer, which was found nearby later that night.

Two days later, two robbers broke through louvered window panes to enter a house in the 1800 block of Park Skyline Road in the unincorporated county community of Lemon Heights, near Tustin.

The husband had just returned home and his wife was watching TV about 11:40 p.m.

The wife was led upstairs at gunpoint and the man was prodded twice in the back with the stun gun. The bandits escaped in the couple’s 1982 Mercedes-Benz with $750 in cash and a large amount of jewelry, Olson said.

In the earlier robberies, a gunman followed a couple as they walked to their front porch in the 11000 block of Skyline Drive in Lemon Heights on the evening of Sept. 2. He made them lie down and fled with their jewelry and $100 cash.

Pried Open a Window

On Sept. 15, two men pried open a kitchen window on Villa Isle Drive in Villa Park at about 9 p.m. One man held a gun on a couple in the home who had been watching TV, while his accomplice ransacked the house. No stun gun was seen or used. They took the couple’s Mercedes-Benz, along with cash and jewelry. The car was found abandoned the next day in Rialto, San Bernardino County.

Apparently, none of the victims’ neighborhoods were part of a citizen-watch group, although the familiar Neighborhood Watch placard, with a black-cowled crook and a red slash through his face, can be seen on many surrounding streets.

What many residents said they find most disturbing is that the bandits seem to know the area so well, hitting the remote cul-de-sacs off dead-end streets, where there is only one road out.

“It’s not normal,” said a neighbor of one of the victims. “You think they’re out there watching you. We feel almost terrorized. The neighborhood is really on edge. Everyone is skittish. Some people have guns.”

Like many others in the area, the neighbor was having her own burglar alarm installed. Security companies were making the rounds, soliciting their devices.

“Yeah, you get a lot of calls from alarm people,” she said.

A man at one home in the two target neighborhoods answered a telephone call early Wednesday but said the owners are away. He said he was installing a new alarm system for them.


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