AUSTIN (KXAN) — Police are looking for a man connected with a string of robberies that left some victims seriously injured and hospitalized in north Austin, the Austin Police Department said in a release.
APD said the man has used a machete, firearm and a bat throughout the nine robberies between Sept. 19 and Oct. 4. Police said the incidents have happened between the 300-1800 blocks of West Rundberg Lane around the Northgate, North Plaza and Research Boulevard areas.
“I was just totally blown away,” said Monica Guzmán, who lives in the area. “I was able to see eight of the addresses, six of them in this neighborhood.”
Guzmán is also a community leader, serving as policy director for Go Austin/Vamos Austin, a group that addresses health barriers and inequities.
“As much as I’m on social media, I hadn’t heard anything about any of [the robberies],” she said.
Paul Saldaña with Hispanic Advocates Business Leaders of Austin (HABLA), said his parents also live in the area of the attacks.
“It makes me a little nervous, a little, a little anxious, because my parents are both in their 80s, and sometimes they’ll drive on their own to the convenience store to pick up things here and there,” he said.
According to incident reports, the suspect stole big and small items, ranging from a car to electronics to money. He also struck at night to early morning, ranging from around 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.
Police said most of the victims are Hispanic or non-English speaking.
“It makes me wonder: is he specifically targeting people he knows that don’t speak English? Or is it just pure luck? Or is it profiling?” Guzmán said.
Saldaña worries there may be even more unreported attacks in the largely Latino area.
“Sometimes they fear the police thinking that they may, you know, not take them seriously and instead focus on their immigration status or contact ICE officials,” he explained.
APD said people have seen the suspect testing door knobs and car doors at different housing complexes.
Police described the suspect as a Black man, possibly in his mid-30s with a stocky, muscular build. He is approximately 6 foot to 6 foot, 3 inches tall. The suspect was seen wearing a face covering, dark clothing and sometimes gloves, APD said.
Both community leaders want to make sure APD has a plan to catch the suspect.
“We’re talking about people in my community, who are being profiled and becoming victims of armed robberies. And it’s just a matter of time before we have an unfortunate situation where we may have a fatality,” Saldaña said.
“It speaks to the need for police to be on alert,” said Guzmán, who is a former member of the Reimagining Public Safety taskforce. “I’m not saying we need the police all over the place for everything. They can’t stop [crime], but they can go after whoever committed it. And while they’re doing that, they still need to address the internal issues at the police department.”
In the meantime, both leaders encourage neighbors to be on alert.
“Take care of your neighbors keep an eye out, especially those who are vulnerable, our senior citizens and certainly the children in the neighborhood,” Saldaña said.
“We just need to really be looking out for each other and find a way to, you know, to protect each other help each other,” Guzmán said.
Anyone with information about these robberies is asked to call the APD Robbery tip line at (512) 974-5092, Crime Stoppers at (512) 472-TIPS or use the new Crime Stoppers App.
APD safety tips
- Lock all doors including patio doors, front doors, car doors and gates.
- Report any suspicious persons to 911. If you see someone carrying a machete, relay that to dispatch and reference this robbery suspect, so patrol can respond quickly.
- Stay off your phone while walking through parking lots and be aware and observant of your surroundings.
- Try to have someone with you while walking to and from your vehicle in parking lots.
- Remind your apartment management to ensure the surveillance cameras are working.
- Open up a bank account and do not carry large amounts of cash on you.
- If you have a surveillance camera or doorbell camera that may have suspicious activity from this area regarding the described suspect, reach out to the APD robbery tip line.