NORTH MIAMI (CBS4) – CBS4 has learned of a horrible crime that has happened four times in the past two months in the city of North Miami. Gunmen have been forcing robbery victims in to the trunks of their cars while trying to get cash.
North Miami Police Major Neal Cuevas says he is worried about “copycat criminals” who may one day take a life.
One victim is speaking out exclusively to CBS4’s Peter D’Oench after being driven around in the trunk of his Mercedes Benz for two hours on Wednesday night. He was abducted at 8 p.m. while leaving his job and was finally rescued by police at 10 p.m. after discovering he had a cell phone in his trunk and after calling 911.
The victim called himself “Victor” and did not want to show all of his face or give his full name because police are still looking for the five suspects in his case.
But he wanted to tell us how he survived.
“I just had to keep my cool and play this out,” said Victor. “I’m thinking two things. But first I am thinking this is not going to be the last night of my life. When you get into a situation like this you have got to rise up and step up. Most people can because they are running on adrenalin. What you don’t want to do is overreact.”
“Originally I thought there is no way I am just going to lie down in this trunk so they can lock me up and do what they want,” he said. “You don’t want to get in that trunk and act frightened. You have to resist these guys.”
“It all started when I was leaving work and I was approached by two guys,” said Victor. “One guy with a gun said get in the car and I said I am absolutely not going to get in the car. I said shoot me. Go ahead right now, I’m not getting in the car. So he pushed me and I pushed him and around the side, a much bigger guy came and hit me on the side of the face.”
Victor showed D’Oench a big bruise around his right eye from the attack.
“I decided not to resist,” said Victor. “It really sounded like they were joyriding. They put CDs in. They actually brought their own CDs with them to play their own music while driving around. They had no serious conversation. I’m thinking I am going to get out of here one way or another. I am going to play this out.”
“But I am also thinking it is really sad that a guy can’t work a little late in his office if he wants to and be comfortable walking out and not having to worry about what’s going on,” he said. “To me it had to be something premeditated where I was targeted or my building was targeted.”
Victor wondered how long he would be driven around. Fortunately, he found a cell phone in his trunk that he had received earlier in the day. Even though it was not fully activated, he was able to call 911. At one point, he told the dispatcher that the vehicle had stopped. And through GPS, police were able to discover where the vehicle was.
“Everyone should know in the event of an emergency that they should try their cell phone because an emergency number should always be working on your phone. You can call 911 and it will go through,” he said. “Thank God it did, thank God it did. I am blessed. I look at this as a blessing. Why? Because I am still here to talk about it.”
“I hope something like this never happens to me again,” said Victor. “But kind of like the way we would prepare for a hurricane, there are some things we should think about such as always having a towel, a bottle of water and even a cell phone in the trunk of your car. And everyone should know where the emergency release button is in your car. That is critical.”
“In the last eight or nine weeks, we have had four victims forced in to the trunks of their vehicles,” said Cuevas.
He said while they were able to find the emergency release buttons and get out of their cars, he is alarmed by the rash of kidnappings.
“We hope that there won’t be a situation where people are locked in their trunks and are not able to get out and perish,” said Cuevas.
Cuevas told D’Oench, “Generally when we have copycat crimes like his, it’s because the word has gotten out and people tend to take the easy route,” said Cuevas.
On May 5th, 27-year-old ATM serviceman Juan Carlos Canalas was beaten and shot multiple times while returning home from work. Two men attacked him in his condominium parking lot at Northeast 7th Avenue and 133rd Street.
Police say two men beat Canalas, locked him in the trunk of his company car and when he was able to escape, the men chased him and shot him.
Family members said Canals suffered a “spinal injury.”
Two men, Ricardo Stevens Eloi and Stanley Fleurant, were arrested in that case. They have been charged with armed robbery, carjacking and drug possession.
On May 24th, Police say 31-year-old Richardson Laurent was approached by three men at a Valero gas station at 1201 Northwest 103rd Street and forced at gunpoint to get in to the trunk of his car. He was driven to an ATM at a Wells Fargo branch at 9899 Northeast 2nd Avenue in Miami Shores where he was forced to withdraw between $200 and $300.
Then he was driven back to the gas station and forced to withdraw another $200.
The Valero attendant told police a surveillance camera on the property may have captured the suspects.
Police say they have arrested one suspect in that case who is 17 years old. He has been charged with Armed Carjacking, Kidnapping and Armed Robbery with a Deadly weapon.
In a fourth case, Cuevas said a cab driver was robbed and forced in to the trunk of his cab.
Anyone with information on these cases is urged to call North Miami Police or Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at (305) 471-TIPS (8477).