Authorities are looking for help with identifying an alleged carjacker who is responsible for more than a dozen thefts and robberies in Glendale, Burbank and the Los Angeles region.
The man, who police have dubbed the “Opportunistic bandit,” allegedly started targeting lone women April 14, physically assaulting them before taking their purses and sometimes their vehicles, Los Angeles Police Department detectives said at a press conference on Tuesday.
“Intimidation is a big part of this,” said Glendale Police Sgt. Jeff Newton, who is working on the robbery investigation.
Police released photographs and surveillance video footage —recorded at 8:45 p.m. on April 15 — that showed the alleged carjacker holding a cell phone to his ear as he followed a woman into a gas station convenience store in the 1700 block of Highland Avenue in Los Angeles.
Police say when he tried talking to the woman, she left and got in her car. At that point, he also entered the woman’s car via the passenger door, hit her several times and forced her out, stealing her car and purse, police said.
That same morning in Glendale, police said he grabbed a woman who was near her car on Colorado Road and Pacific Avenue, pretended to have a gun and stole her purse and other belongings. He fled on foot.
About an hour later, he approached three men on the 3900 block of Riverside Drive in Burbank, again pretended to have a gun, and robbed them of their money, Burbank Police Sgt. Darin Ryburn said. The men told police he fled in a silver Mercedes SUV.
The man returned to Glendale, where police said he stole a purse from another woman’s car as she was loading items into the trunk on Glendale Avenue, also fleeing in the Mercedes.
Police detectives later recovered the SUV, which they said was stolen from a woman who was pumping gas in Santa Monica.
“He got a full tank of gas and a car,” Glendale Police Det. Art Frank said.
In Burbank, the same man was suspected of entering Prizzi’s restaurant on Riverside Drive on April 20 after the restaurant was closed and stealing crash from the register, Ryburn said. A restaurant employee who attempted to chase him down suffered minor injuries after she was knocked to the ground by a white Mercedes SUV he was driving.
Five days later, Ryburn said the man again pretended to have a handgun and robbed the Best Western hotel on Riverside Drive.
In a separate carjacking incident in Los Angeles, he allegedly struck a 76-year-old woman before stealing her 2006 Toyota Highlander SUV.
Police officials on Tuesday said they were afraid the carjackings could escalate into more violent crimes if the man wasn’t caught soon.
Detectives said the man has used the stolen vehicles to commit other crimes, including other auto thefts, vandalism and street robberies, in Los Angeles, Glendale, Burbank, Pasadena, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica.
The man’s victims identified him as having black hair or a bald head, brown eyes, 25 to 35 years old, 5 foot 9 inches tall to 6 foot 4 inches tall and 180 to 250 pounds.
Police urged residents to be vigilant, a good witness and record information.
“We really don’t want anyone to get involved and get injured,” Ryburn said.
Anyone with details about the alleged carjackers or any of the incidents may call the Glendale’s robbery detectives at (818) 548-3987 or Los Angeles detectives at (213) 486-6840. To remain anonymous, call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477.