By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS
Rafu Staff Writer
The Rafu Shimpo has learned that a suspect has been arrested in connection with at least two bold robberies of elderly residents recently in Little Tokyo.
LAPD senior lead officer Jack Richter said a man in his mid-20s was taken into custody on Aug. 7, after authorities received a tip as to the man’s location and possible involvement.
“He had been bragging to his friends about how easy it was, and someone turned him in,” Richter said, adding that the suspect fit the description investigators had compiled from victims and witnesses. He also reportedly bore scratches on his arms, which may have resulted from the brief struggle with an elderly woman who was assaulted and robbed of her jewelry during a July 24 attack on First Street between Los Angeles and San Pedro streets.
Another snatch-and-grab of jewelry attributed to the backpack bandit — so named because of the small pack he wore during the crimes — was also caught on surveillance video eight days later near Little Tokyo Towers.
Despite the arrest, Richter said the District Attorney’s Office has declined to pursue the case, citing a lack of solid evidence. He said the victims — one of whom is legally blind — were unable to positively identify the suspect in a police lineup, and two poor-quality security camera videos provide no clear image of the perpetrator’s face.
“I believe we arrested the right guy,” Richter insisted, ” But unfortunately, he won’t be punished for these crimes.”
The suspect, whose name has not been released, remains in custody, however, as the investigation into the alleged crimes revealed that he is in the U.S. illegally. He is currently being processed for deportation to Mexico, which the suspect said is his home, according to Richter.
Although there will be no prosecution for the recent robberies, Richter stressed that the Little Tokyo area remains one of the safest neighborhoods of the city. He also said that this ordeal can serve as a reminder to residents to be aware of their surroundings and to be careful about openly displaying valuables while walking alone on the streets.
Richter further hoped that merchants and building owners in the area will consider upgrading their video surveillance systems, as inferior quality video can show crimes being committed but are of little value if suspects cannot be identified.
“In this case, our subject was caught three times on camera, but this doesn’t do us any good unless they’re focused and situated properly and can show details,” he explained.
While the man in custody will not face charges in the Little Tokyo incidents, Richter is certain that his department arrested the right person, and that his being removed from Los Angeles and the country is a positive outcome.
“We had many officers working long hours to get this guy off the street,” Richter said. “As far as I’m concerned, good riddance.”