Gun-wielding suspect robs girls

Witnesses say suspect also threatened them with gun

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published September 19, 2012

GROSSE POINTE CITY — Police sought a man armed with a handgun after he reportedly robbed a couple of young sisters while they were walking in the area of Charlevoix and Lakeland at around 11:30 a.m. Sept. 16.

According to reports from witnesses, some of whom were trying to aid the victims, ages 11 and 14, the suspect also threatened the witnesses with his weapon.

The suspect is said to have shoved one of the girls to the ground as he stole her cellphone, police said.

Public Safety Director Stephen Poloni and police reports indicated that witnesses described the suspect as a light-skinned black man in his 20s who is bald or has very short hair. The suspect is said to be about 230-250 pounds and 5 feet 10 inches to 6 feet tall. He was wearing black jeans or other dark pants and a dark-colored hoodie at the time of the incident, and he wore a bandana to cover his face, or had his shirt pulled up to conceal his face.

A 49-year-old resident said he heard the girls scream and he drove toward the area to investigate. The witness told police the suspect then pulled a black semiautomatic handgun and said, “I don’t think so.” The witness, who was on his way to the store, said he pushed his wife to the floor of their vehicle and accelerated, heading north on Lakeland. The suspect was last seen on foot heading west towards Mack through a yard in the 800 block of Lakeland.

Another witness told police she saw the suspect struggle with the two girls in the middle of the street, and as he passed her house and saw her in front of the dwelling, she said he pointed his handgun at her. She said the suspect might have been wearing gloves.

A man who lives in the 700 block of Lakeland said his dog escaped from the house and ran toward the suspect. He told police the suspect aimed his gun at the dog and told the resident to “get the dog away.”

The victims’ shaken parents spoke to the City Council about the crime during a meeting Sept. 17. The father said the girls were robbed at gunpoint for a cellphone.

“It’s very unfortunate,” he told City officials. “I’m speechless right now.”

Officers from all five Grosse Pointe public safety departments, as well as Harper Woods police and the City’s K-9, assisted in the manhunt for the suspect and set up a perimeter, but police were unable to apprehend him, Poloni said.

At the time of the armed robbery, Poloni said his department was “stretched thin” because the crime coincided with several City officers being on an ambulance run and transporting prisoners to a neighboring lockup. However, he said police still responded quickly to the call, with officers on the scene within two minutes.

“Yesterday was an extremely unusual day for us,” Poloni said.

The last time a crime of this nature occurred in the City was the evening of April 16, 2010, when three female teens walking in the area of East Jefferson and Lincoln were robbed by an armed man who was a passenger in a minivan driving in the area.

Lakeland resident Christopher Lee, whose son is a City detective, expressed concern about a possible merger of the City and Park public safety departments in light of this crime.

“I’m kind of outraged with this kind of thing happening in broad daylight right in front of my house,” Lee said.

Mayor Dale Scrace said a study looking at a possible merger of the departments was in its “preliminary phase” at press time.

“We’re a ways away (from making) any decision,” the mayor told Lee.

Anyone with more information about this incident is asked to call (313) 886-3200.