CITRUS PARK, Fla - Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputies believe a serial armed robber is on the loose.
Surveillance video from inside a Wendy's Restaurant located at 3712 Bruce B. Downs Boulevard in Tampa shows a gunman wearing a black ski mask and long black sweatshirt. That armed robbery took place on October 14.
Detectives believe the same man is responsible for armed robberies at three area Pizza Huts and a Pappa John's Pizza off Gunn Highway. All the armed robberies occurred between September 21 and October 16.
"That is not how I want to go out," said Ron Schmiedebush, a pizza delivery man who came face-to-face with the gunman last month while closing up the pizzeria.
One of Schmiedebush's worst fears is getting killed at work. His fear almost became reality in the early morning hours of September 22. Closing up the Pappa John's Pizza on Gunn Highway along with a co-worker, he heard what sounded like dishes breaking. It wasn't.
An armed gunman shattered a front window with a brick, jumped into the store, pulled a gun and demanded money. Detectives say the gunman did the same thing at all five businesses.
"A thousand things are running through your mind," Schmiedebush added.
Stunned and paralyzed by fear, he couldn't even make it over to the panic button.
Schmiedebush said he considered what he could use as a weapon in the kitchen but the crime was over within seconds.
"I was defenseless. I am in the store with a gun pointed in my face," he said.
After the gunman made off with the cash, he recalls an 'eerie silence.' With his hands up and head down, Schmiedebush wasn't sure the gunman took off until he dared to look up.
Neither Schmiedebush nor his female co-worker were hurt. None of the other victims in the other four cases were hurt either.
Since the robbery, store managers have installed several surveillance cameras.
Schmiedebush thinks the gunman likely watched the store for several days before committing the crime. He said the gunman knew his way around the store.
The suspect is described as a man, between the ages of 22 and 35, weighing 150 to 180 lbs., around 5'5" - 5'11" tall. He was wearing a black ski mask and black long sleeve sweatshirt.
Anyone with any information in reference to the suspect is asked to call the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office at 247-8200. Or, anyone with any information regarding the identity and whereabouts of this suspect and who wants to be eligible for a cash reward is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS (8477), report anonymously online at www.crimestopperstb.com or text "CSTB plus your tip" to C-R-I-M-E-S (274637).
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