Three men charged in brazen daylight robberies targeting Asian Americans

Three men have been charged with stealing expensive watches, other designer items and cash from victims, many of whom were Asian-American, in a series of brazen daylight crimes in Los Angeles and Orange County, prosecutors said Tuesday.

A July 9 robbery in the parking lot of a 99 Ranch convenience store in Rowland Heights was caught on video, shocking San Gabriel Valley residents who were used to shopping in relative safety.

The men — Dangelo Thomas, Demoryie Watts and Eric Burham — selected victims who “wore expensive jewelry, wore designer items and had large amounts of cash,” Los Angeles County Dist. atty said George Gascón at a press conference.

Prosecutors on Tuesday charged 25-year-old Long Beach resident Thomas 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, one count of second-degree robbery.

Thomas and Watts also face specific allegations of using a firearm.

“These brazen crimes – all of which occurred during the day – are deeply disturbing. The victims’ sense of security was shaken,” said Gascón. “The majority of the victims were from the Asian-American community and I know this caused significant trauma in the community. I hope everyone affected by this wave of violence sleeps better tonight knowing that those who have done harm will be held accountable.”

Robberies of expensive watches, snatched from victims while they are eating, walking or shopping, have become a trend in Los Angeles but less common in suburban areas.

Many Asian Americans are increasingly afraid of being targeted amid the surge in anti-Asian hate attacks during the pandemic. The three men have not been charged with hate crimes.

According to prosecutors, in April Thomas mugged a 40-year-old man at the 500 block of Glendale Avenue in Glendale and made off with a Rolex watch, jewelry and cash.

Prosecutors also believe Thomas committed three robberies in less than two hours on May 9, stealing a Rolex, designer purse and cash in Rosemead, La Puente and Temple City.

Two days later, all three defendants took cash and other items from a 35-year-old woman and a 31-year-old man at the 3800 block of San Fernando Road in Glendale, prosecutors said.

The following week, Thomas stole about $10,000 from two people in Fullerton, prosecutors said.

Twice in June, Thomas and Watts carried out additional robberies in Temple City, according to prosecutors, in one case stealing about $14,000.

In the Ranch 99 robbery, prosecutors allege that Thomas and Watts assaulted a 64-year-old man multiple times with a handgun before stealing his Rolex watch, which was valued at about $60,000. The man was seriously injured, the prosecutor said.

Video captured by an onlooker 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 on August 31. Both men are being held without bail at the LA County jail, according to the sheriff’s records.

But relatives of some of the victims are still afraid.

“Our families came to Los Angeles in 1976, and this is the worst crime we’ve ever seen,” Cary Ho, a cousin of the 99 ranch victims, said in a written statement. “Back then you were pretty safe as long as you didn’t go into the bad neighborhood where the gangs were. But you can no longer say that.”

Ho said she intends to buy a gun for protection “to walk with pepper spray, which I carry when I walk my dog.” Three men charged in brazen daylight robberies targeting Asian Americans

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