By Karen Zautyk
In early February, two bandits held up a Kearny delicatessen at gunpoint, tied up the clerk and two customers with zip ties, and escaped with approximately $5,000 in cash. Within days of that heist, KPD investigating officers Sgt. Charles Smith and Det. Ray Lopes, noting similarities in the robbers’ descriptions and MO, had linked the crime to at least three others — in Belleville, Bloomfield and Newark.
Further investigation by local and state police has now led authorities to suspect the bandits are responsible for 11 hold-ups in multiple municipalities since Feb. 1.
The case is now in the hands of the FBI Violent Crimes Task Force, which became the lead agency in the investigation last week.
In addition, the Essex County Sheriff’s Office has announced that the Crime Stoppers program would pay up to $5,000 for information leading to the culprits’ arrests.
According to police, the crime spree apparently began Feb. 1 with two robberies: one at a convenience store in Linden, the second at a Newark gas station. The next day, police said, the bandits hit convenience store on Washington Ave. in Belleville, followed by the Feb. 10 Kearny robbery of Krauszer’s Deli at Kearny and Bennett Aves.
Two more February heists occurred, at a Krauszer’s in Bloomfield and a convenience store in Newark, and the Bloomfield Krauszer’s was reportedly targeted again, in late March.
In April, police said, the duo hit a liquor store in Maplewood, where a clerk was shot and wounded in the chest; a convenience store in Belleville; a liquor store in Linden, and yet another Krauszer’s, this one in West Orange.
Authorities described the suspects as two black males dressed all in black and wearing hoodies and black masks. They carry large backpacks and a red messenger-style bag with a red stripe.
An alert from the Belleville PD included video surveillance photos depicting one suspect wearing reading type glasses, a black baseball cap with a black Boston Red Sox logo and a gold sticker on the brim, and having multiple tattoos on both forearms. Police said he has a large build and is approximately 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds.
Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura said that, upon entering the stores, the suspects point a large silver handgun [possibly a .45-caliber automatic] to the head of the clerk and demand cash. The clerks are then bound with ziplock ties while the registers are cleaned out. In addition to taking cash, the suspects have also stolen Newport cigarettes in each robbery, the sheriff said.
During the Kearny robbery, which occurred at 7:27 p.m., Feb. 10, two black males — one described as at least 6 feet tall and heavy-set — confronted the clerk and the customers, police reported. One of the bandits reportedly brandished a silver handgun.
The three victims were told to walk to the back of the store, where they were bound with zip ties, police said.
After empyting the cash register and taking money from one victim’s wallet, the duo fled on foot, apparently heading up Bennett Ave.
They also stole $581 worth of cigarettes — Newports.
Anyone with information about any of the robberies is urged to call the Kearny PD at 201-998-1313 or the Belleville PD at 973-450-3334.
For more information on the reward offer, contact the Essex County Sheriff ’s Office at 973-621-4105.