SEATTLE - After a string of at least 14 armed robberies targeting families of Asian descent in South Seattle, Seattle Police are now speaking out about the investigation and warning community members about the disturbing trend.
Shocking video that was released this week shows a man in South Seattle being attacked with a taser during an armed robbery. In that video, two people run up behind him wearing masks, one pointing a gun and the other shooting a stun gun. They steal the man's wallet, jewelry, car keys and his phone. They also try to take his rings off his fingers, but they are stuck, so it takes them several tries before it finally works. The robbery happens in broad daylight.
Police say the teens, in masks, are targeting homes primarily the Rainier Beach, Rainier View and Beacon Hill neighborhoods.
"It’s a group of three to seven Black males in their teens. They are armed and they are targeting elderly Asians within our communities within the south precinct," said officer Judinna Gulpan with the Seattle Police Department.
Police now saying the crime spree is larger than initially thought. Last week, they reported that eight homes had been hit since Aug. 6. Now, it's believed they've robbed 14 homes since June.
"They are accosting these victims outside their homes or forcing their way into their homes," said Gulpan.
Police say the group typically holds the victims at gunpoint while stealing cash and jewelry using a stolen Kia or Hyundai as a getaway vehicle. Despite 13 out of the 14 victims being of Asian descent, police say they don't classify the cases as hate crimes.
"Hate crimes are targeted against people because of their ethnicity and this is more about people that they think are easy targets and that’s what we are finding so far," said Lt. John O’Neil with the Seattle Police Department.
Seattle Police confirmed Tuesday that they are investigating whether the robbery involving the stun gun is connected to the string of violent home invasions, committed by a crew of teens, specifically targeting victims of Asian descent.
"Everyone saw the video of the last one that happened, and that was tragic and disturbing, and so this is the kind of thing they are doing, they are going after people that they think are easy targets," said O’Neil.
Residents in South Seattle have experienced a number of other violent incidents this summer. On Aug. 20, three people were killed and six others were injured in an early morning shooting at a hookah bar and in July, five people were shot at a community event outside a Safeway.
When asked if the teens can be connected to incidents like these, police said they are looking into it.
"As soon as we have that information, we will release it," said O'Neil.
Seattle Police ask that if you see anything suspicious, call 911, be hyper-vigilant and consider installing lighting around your home to deter criminal activity, along with alarms and/or video security systems.