Three men have been charged with stealing expensive watches, other designer items and cash from victims, many of whom were Asian Americans, in a brazen broad daylight crime spree across counties Los Angeles and Orange, prosecutors said Tuesday.
A robbery in the parking lot of a 99 Ranch supermarket in Rowland Heights on July 9 was caught on camera and shocked residents of the San Gabriel Valley used to shopping safely.
The men – Dangelo Thomas, Demoryie Watts and Eric Burham – chose victims who wore “expensive jewelry, carried designer items and had large sums of cash”, Los Angeles County Dist. Atti. said George Gascón during a press conference.
Prosecutors on Tuesday charged Thomas, 25, of Long Beach, with 12 counts of second-degree robbery and three counts of elder abuse. They charged Watts, 21, of Lancaster, with six counts of second-degree robbery and one count of elder abuse, and Burham, 21, with one count of second-degree robbery.
Thomas and Watts also face particular allegations of the use of a firearm.
“These brazen crimes – all of which occurred during the day – are deeply disturbing. The victims saw their sense of security shattered,” Gascón said. “The majority of those who were victimized were from the Asian American community, and I know that caused significant community trauma. I hope everyone affected by this wave of violence will sleep better tonight knowing that those who caused the damage will be held accountable.
Thefts of expensive watches, snatched from victims’ wrists as they dine, walk or shop, have become a trend in Los Angeles but are less common in suburban areas.
Many Asian Americans are increasingly fearful of being targeted amid an increase in anti-Asian hate attacks during the pandemic. The three men have not been charged with hate crimes.
Prosecutors say Thomas robbed a 40-year-old man from the 500 block of Glendale Avenue in Glendale in April, making off with a Rolex watch, jewelry and cash.
Prosecutors also believe Thomas committed three robberies in less than two hours on May 9, taking a Rolex, a designer handbag and cash to Rosemead, La Puente and Temple City.
Two days later, the three defendants took money and other items from a 35-year-old woman and a 31-year-old man in the 3800 block of San Fernando Road in Glendale, prosecutors say.
The following week, Thomas stole about $10,000 from two people in Fullerton, prosecutors said.
Twice in June, prosecutors say, Thomas and Watts committed further robberies in Temple City, in one case stealing about $14,000.
In the 99 Ranch robbery, prosecutors allege Thomas and Watts assaulted a 64-year-old man multiple times with a handgun before stealing his Rolex, which was worth about $60,000. The man was seriously injured, prosecutors said.
The video, captured by a bystander, showed a 51-year-old woman screaming in the parking lot as two men pistol-whipped her companion.
Watts was arrested on August 12 and Thomas was arrested on August 31. Both men are being held in the LA County jail without bond, according to sheriff’s records.
But the relatives of some victims are still afraid.
“Our families came to Los Angeles in 1976, and it was the worst crime we’ve ever seen,” Cary Ho, a cousin of the 99 Ranch victims, said in a written statement. “Back then, as long as you didn’t go to the wrong neighborhood where the gangs were, you were pretty safe. But you can’t say that anymore.
Ho said she intended to buy a gun for protection, “to go with the pepper spray I carry when I walk my dog.”
Los Angeles Times