Intruders, Who Posed as Police and Raided 3 Pr. George's Homes, Sought

By Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Armed with handguns and posing as police, a group of men yesterday invaded three homes in Prince George's County, binding the occupants and demanding money and in one case a flat-screen TV, police said.

The intruders first hit a red brick apartment building in District Heights, cuffing a woman with plastic bindings and asking her where she kept her money, according to the woman's account. Next they moved to a two-story home in Glenarden, disregarding the alarm company security sign in the front yard as they broke in, police said.

Then it was back to a townhouse just outside of District Heights, their last job of the morning, police said.

By 6 a.m., police said, the men had invaded three homes. And in Prince George's. And they all got away.

"It's sad and it's scary, because everybody in this building has kids," said Cassandra Martin, 34, who lives in the District Heights apartment building. "It could happen to any of us."

Investigators believe that the same group of men robbed each victim, and they are exploring the possibility that the group is one they have dealt with before, authorities said.

The manner in which the men are invading the homes resembles other recent invasions, said Maj. Andy Ellis, a spokesman for the Prince George's police. It is possible, he said, that the men have been arrested before.

Investigators are still looking into whether the victims might be linked, Ellis said. The fact that a woman was robbed on the third floor of an apartment building, he said, might be an indication that she was specifically targeted, because the intruders had to go out of their way to reach her.

"That's not indicative of a randomly chosen victim," he said.

Police said the three men armed with handguns first targeted an apartment in the 6600 block of District Heights Parkway, breaking in at 4 a.m. There they encountered a woman and her two young children, but they did not take anything, police and the woman said.

About an hour later, police said, the men hit a home in the 8600 block of Fulton Avenue in Glenarden. This time, only two intruders entered and only one was armed, police said. They stole cash and a flat-screen TV from a 21-year-old woman and a 24-year-old man, police said.

The men's last target was a home in the 2800 block of Crestwick Place, back in the District Heights area, police said. All three intruders struck there about 6 a.m. and took cash from a 28-year-old woman and a 34-year-old man, police said.

The woman who lives in the District Heights apartment building that was invaded said the men kicked the door and yelled that they were the police. The woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear that the robbers would retaliate, said she had not made it to the door before the intruders kicked it in, pointed guns at her and yelled for her to put her hands behind her back.

"He was, like, asking me where was the money, where was the money," the woman said. "I was like, 'Ain't no money in here.' "

One man tied the woman's hands behind her back with plastic bindings, she said, while her children, ages 7 and 4, cried behind her. Eventually, the woman said, the men turned off all the lights in the apartment and left without taking anything. The woman said she ran to her sister's apartment for help getting out of the bindings.

As troubling as the invasion, residents of the apartment building said, is that the intruders were able to enter so easily. The lock on the building's door has been broken for at least a year, and the buzzers to each apartment do not work, Martin said. She said apartment officials have ignored repeated requests to fix it. As of yesterday afternoon, the door was not locked.

"Anybody can just get pretty much in and out of the building," Martin said.

An official with the Shelter Group, which manages the apartment complex, did not return a phone message seeking comment. The property manager could not be located to comment.

Home invasions have been of particular concern to Prince George's police this year. In May, Police Chief Roberto L. Hylton took the unusual step of advising people to vary their routines so they wouldn't be targeted by would-be invaders. Police said yesterday that home invasions reported in the county stand at 105 this year, up from 53 at the same time last year.

Ellis said police are increasing patrols in District Heights and Glenarden.

The invasions have left those who live near District Heights and Glenarden somewhat shaken. That the victims were bound and held at gunpoint, neighbors said, was particularly worrisome.

"Tied them up? . . . Good God, where was I?" said Theresa Winfield, 53, who lives in the 8600 block of Fulton Avenue. "It's awful strange for us to hear something like that . . . I can't have my kids out now."

Anyone with information on the robberies is asked to call Crime Solvers at 1-866-411-TIPS. Callers are eligible for a cash reward for information leading to a conviction.

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