Police are searching for two armed robbers who held up a pair of taco stands early Friday morning.
The first robbery took place around midnight near the intersection of East 103rd Street and Compton Avenue in the Watts neighborhood.
The workers said that two men approached the stand and demanded money. One of the suspects pulled out a handgun and pointed it at workers.
Although a cash box was given to the robbers, workers said that wasn’t enough.
The employees also had to empty their pockets while being held at gunpoint, worker Esteban Jimenez said.
The suspects fled westbound on 103rd Street with about $600.
About an hour earlier, two robbers armed with a handgun held up a taco stand near the intersection of 92nd Street and South Central Avenue in the Green Meadows neighborhood.
The robbers demanded cash from workers and customers before fleeing with about $1,200. The workers said all of their money was taken in during the robberies and they were shaken by the experience.
A third, similar robbery occurred on Monday when at least one robber held up workers at a taco truck in the Green Meadows neighborhood.
A suspect was seen on video grabbing a worker and pointing a gun at his head while demanding cash. That suspect is still on the run.
Police said at least five different taco stands have been robbed this week alone. They believe the robbers are part of a group of young Hispanic men in their teens and 20s specifically targeting taco vendors. Whether the previous robberies were committed by the same group remains under investigation.
“I think it’s very scary,” said Ronald Evans. “What if they come during my lunch hour? Like here I am at a taco truck trying to get some food.”
“These people [taco vendors] spend their hard-earned money and they risk their lives being out here and they’re trying to serve the community authentic food,” said resident Arturo Gonzalez.
“They need safety and protection,” said Jennifer Campos, who works nearby. “A lot of it has gotten out of hand. You see so many vendors everywhere, but that’s their way of making money. They have to buy things, they have to pay their rent and put on food on the table for their kids.”
So far, no one was seriously injured in the robberies.