Phone records, DNA led to armed robbery suspect, federal authorities say

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla - Federal agents say they known the man who committed eight armed robberies in the Bay area over the past two months.

Demetrius Renaldo Bowers, 28, of Tampa, was tied to the crime according to authorities via DNA and cell phone records.

The first armed robbery was committed on September 23 and the last occurred on November 4.  Restaurant hit include a Domino's Pizza in Spring Hill, a Largo Pizza Hut and a Papa Johns in North Tampa.

The armed robberies took place in Hillsborough, Hernando and Pinellas Counties and all were committed in a similar way.  Federal agents say Bowers would smash the front windows of each restaurant with a brick and then demand money at gunpoint.

Ron Schmiedebush came face-to-face with the gunman.  Schmiedebush, a pizza delivery man, was closing up shop at Papa Johns on Gunn Highway went he heard a smashing sound.

An armed gunman shattered a front window with a brick, jumped into the store, pulled a gun and demanded money.

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An armed gunman had shattered the store's front window. 

"A thousand things are running through your mind," said Schmiedebush.

Schmiedebush and a female co-worker feared for their lives. Both were so stunned and paralyzed by fear, neither hit the store's panic button.

Within minutes, it was all over.  The gunman took off with $1,500.

Federal agents told ABC Action News Bowers' first mistake happened when he fled.  They say he left behind the black mask he was wearing 175 yards away from the pizzeria. Agents tested the mask for DNA and collected a sample.  Then, they checked the sample against DNA collected from convicted offenders.  There was a match to Bowers.  Bowers was in the system because he has previous convictions of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, burglary and robbery.

Agents say cell phone records also link Bowers to these crimes.

Walter Lanier, an agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said agents decided to check for "tower hits" from Bowers' cell phone.

Cell phone towers record data each time a person calls or sends a text message.

Cell phone records, according to the arrest affidavit, placed Bowers within three miles of each restaurant when each crime occurred.   Lanier is calling this significant evidence because Bowers lives in Tampa and was found in counties he didn't live in.

Bowers has been charged at the federal level because all of the fast food restaurants are national franchises and robbing them constitutes interfering with interstate commerce, which is a federal crime.

An armed gunman shattered a front window with a brick, jumped into the store, pulled a gun and demanded money.

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