NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) - A man accused of nearly a dozen robberies in Newport News has struck again, according to police.
Harold Eley with the Newport News Police Department said officers were dispatched to the Family Dollar located at 5051 Jefferson Avenue just before 3:30 p.m. Sunday for a report of a robbery.
When they arrived, they discovered an unknown black male sporting fake facial hair ordered the manager to bring him cash at gunpoint. Eley said the suspect ordered several customers to a part of the store so he could see them. Everyone was then ordered to the back of the store as the suspect fled on foot.
Felicia Gayle shops at the Family Dollar nearly every day. She told WAVY.com she is thankful Sunday's rain kept her indoors or she might have been inside when a gunman walked in.
"The good thing, ain't nobody get hurt," Gayle said.
Police say the suspect has robbed 10 Family Dollar or discount stores with a handgun since November 2011. Almost every time, he walks in the store, asks for a manager and demands money from the safe and the cash register.
"He seemed to understand the layout of the store that he was in," Eley said.
Eley says police are looking into the possibility that the man works for or has worked for a Family Dollar.
"This person comes in, knows the location of the cameras, stands in certain areas where he wants to stand to make sure that we don't get to see him very well," Eley said. In every case the robber wears a disguise. "It looks like moth balls, only dark in color or black in color, and he's got them all over his face in a bearded shape," Eley said.
Police say the victims have done everything right by listening to the gunman's demands.
"You don't want to confront him," Eley said. "You don't want to get him off his script because we believe the only reason he's there is for the cash. It is possible that it's gone on so long it could escalate. He hasn't shown any signs of that, but it could and we want to make sure that is doesn't."
As scary as these robberies are, no one WAVY.com spoke with Monday said they would stop shopping at Family Dollar stores.
"They're robbing everywhere, so you'd basically have to stay at home if you're trying to get away from it," Walter Washington of Newport News said.
Instead shoppers promise to be more vigilant.
"I will look and I'm going to call 911," Gayle said.
That is exactly what investigators want to hear.
"Call us. Don't wait! In some cases persons have seen an individual hanging out in front of a store or near a store and it turns out to be the same individual, but no one bothered to call," Eley said.
The suspect is described as a black male standing 5'7" to 5'8 with a husky build. Aside from the fake facial hair, he was wearing sunglasses, a horizontal striped shirt and black hooded sweatshirt at the time of Sunday's robbery.
Sunday's robbery is 10th by the same suspect in Newport News and at least nine similar robberies have occurred in Hampton. Both departments say they are sharing information on these cases. Anyone with information is asked to call the Crime Line at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP.
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