Possible link in robberies

CENTRAL GLENDALE — Shop owners along South Central Avenue are on heightened alert after police said a man — matching the description of a suspect who robbed a Pizza Hut on the strip two weeks ago — tried to rob a Domino's Pizza up the street Tuesday.

Two Domino's employees were preparing to close the restaurant on the 700 block of South Central Avenue at about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday when a man, who was holding a gun, began banging on the front glass door, Glendale police Sgt. Tom Lorenz said.

As he tried to get inside, he pointed a gun at the employees as he yelled at them to open the restaurant, Lorenz said.

Fearing the gunman would fire shots, the employees hid under the counter and called police, he said. They remained hidden underneath the counter until officers arrived.

“They were very distraught,” Lorenz said.

Detectives were looking into whether the gunman — described as being black and in his early to mid-20s — is the same suspect who robbed the Pizza Hut on the 1200 block of South Central Avenue on May 31, shooting the lone employee in the shoulder.

The shooting took place at about 11 a.m. The 18-year-old employee, a Glendale resident, was able to activate the silent alarm as she followed orders to hand over several hundred dollars and her purse.

“There are similarities in the statements of the victims,” Lorenz said of both incidents, which had other shop owners and employees along the avenue anxious.

Several business employees and owners who were interviewed refused to give their names because they feared retaliation.

“We are all worried,” said Luis Parra, a Papa John's Pizza employee.

His colleagues at the restaurant make sure that at least two employees are working together at night, and after closing up, they walk with each other to the parking lot, he said.

“We are careful at night,” Parra said.

Employees at the pizzeria also look out for any suspicious people in the parking lot, especially those who are sitting alone in their cars.

An employee at A&G; Deli and Grocery, which shares the same shopping center with Domino's Pizza, has seen random acts of crime in the area in the past few months.

A customer's purse was snatched in May after she left the grocery store, said an employee, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation.

Nearly two years ago, a burglar smashed in the grocery store window and stole the cash register, he said.

A manager at the Starbucks on South Central said the recent robberies were worrisome.

Store employees keep the lights on at night and walk with each other after work to their cars.

The practice is now standard protocol at Barragan's Mexican Restaurant, Manager Nery Alaniz said.

“Every time we close, we are really careful,” she said. “We usually don't stay alone.”

Glendale police encouraged the public to call with tips or any information about the two robbery cases.

The suspect in the Pizza Hut shooting robbery was described as being black, with a medium to light complexion and in his 20s to 30s. He wore a navy blue cap, sunglasses, a brown suit with a white shirt, black gloves and carried a dark-colored shoulder bag.

The Domino's suspect was described as being black or a dark-skinned Latino, about 20 to 25 years old, 5-foot-6 and 130 pounds. He wore dark sunglasses, a dark hooded sweat shirt and carried a black bag.

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