A fast-breaking multijurisdictional investigation appears to have dealt a fatal blow to a band of thieves that has been terrorizing the Asian-American community with armed robberies.
Police yesterday announced the arrests of five men who they say committed at least 10 recent robberies in Southwest Philadelphia and Delaware County - including several in which the perpetrators followed victims from their businesses to their homes and robbed them at gunpoint.
In one instance last month, two of the men allegedly held up a 25-year-old and stole credit cards, cash and an iPod as he was attempting to enter his Egret Place home. Two days later, the bandits broke into his house while he was gone and made off with his 56-inch TV, said Lt. John Walker of Southwest Detectives.
The victim, whose family owns a nail salon on Point Breeze Avenue, has put his house up for sale because of the back-to-back incidents, Walker said.
"He went out and purchased a gun and sleeps with it," Walker said of the man, who, like most of the recent victims, is Asian.
Shawn Davis, 20, of Caesar Place near 80th Street, and Charon Humphrey, 18, of Wheeler Street near Claymont, have been charged with eight robberies in Philadelphia and two in Delaware County since Nov. 20.
"I don't even feel safe in my house right now," said John Song, 15, whose mother was robbed at gunpoint last week as she walked into their home in Marple Township, widely considered one of the safest communities in Delaware County. Police say she was followed from her restaurant in Upper Darby.
When a reporter knocked on their door last night, Song poked his head out of a second-floor window before coming downstairs.
"I was just paranoid - you can never be too careful," he said, adding that his parents, who speak limited English, are still terrified.
"We've determined that they were targeting Asian business owners and that they would follow them home and rob them at their house," Walker said.
Also facing robbery charges in connection with some of the incidents are Rickey Phillips, 18; Nuri Murray, 19; and Khalil Johnson, 17, who is being charged as an adult. All three are from Southwest Philadelphia.
Investigators broke the case last week, when TD Bank reported to state police that debit cards stolen from a Middletown couple were being used for online purchases, and Philadelphia detectives realized that they were pursuing the same individuals.
"That certainly was instrumental in connecting the dots," Marple Police Chief Thomas Murray said last night.
The FBI is assisting in the investigation to determine if the same group is responsible for two home invasions last week in Delaware County - on Hampshire Drive in Marple and in a Collingdale apartment above the China Moon Restaurant, on MacDade Boulevard.