Posted: Dec 26, 2012 6:02 PM
Updated: Dec 26, 2012 7:18 PM
HIDALGO COUNTY - Police continue searching for three suspects wanted in the armed robberies of two fireworks stands Tuesday near Donna.
The first robbery happened on 11 ½ North Road and FM 433 around 9 p.m. The thieves got away with $40 and the cash box.
The second crime happened about an hour and a half later on Sioux Road, near FM 1423. According to Hidalgo County sheriff's deputies, the clerk told the men the cash box had already been picked up. The thieves then allegedly asked for a box of fireworks and ran to the back of the fireworks stand.
The clerk then reported hearing three shotgun rounds fired behind the stand. The men fled the scene on foot.
The sheriff said thefts at fireworks stands are common during the holidays. He advised fireworks stand operators not to resist and added deputies would be patrolling fireworks stands.
The stands typically hold thousands of dollars worth of merchandise.
"We lock it from the inside and the outside ... the doors too," Yajaira Chavez said. She handles hundreds of dollars, sometimes thousands, product of cash sales. Sales increase as New Year's Eve approaches, stand operators said.
"Never thought it was going to happen," Chavez said. Her business was the second one the thieves targeted.
Chavez said she didn't expect any problems at her stand, even when the all-cash business doesn't have an alarm or surveillance system.
"We don't have cameras ... nothing," she said.
Chavez did not have any money at the time of the robbery.
"They didn't know what they wanted. They told my brother, ‘give me that box,'" she said.
Sheriff's deputies said they will increase patrols in the areas where fireworks stands are located. They warned stand operators not to fight back.
"I'm probably done," Chavez said. She likely will not work at the stands after the New Year.
Deputies said the suspects were wearing masks and were armed with two handguns and a shotgun.