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Bandits hit 3 businesses, but most leave empty-handed

– Three businesses scattered across the city – two restaurants and a discount retailer – were ambushed Tuesday by men carrying weapons.

The holdups took place within about a 20-hour period, according to police reports, but five of the six thieves left empty-handed.

No one was injured and no arrests have been made, according to police said.

Fort Wayne police spokeswoman Raquel Foster said investigators do not believe the holdups were related.

The first holdup took place about 2:40 a.m. at Steak n’ Shake, 5402 Meijer Drive, near Interstate 469 and Indiana 37, police said.

According to police reports, two employees were in the back of the restaurant and heard someone pounding on the counter. One employee looked through a window into the dining area and saw a man with his face covered with a red bandanna who was hitting the counter.

A second man wearing a dark-colored bandanna was also inside, witnesses told police. One of the men was seen carrying a black handgun and the other was armed with a baseball bat, according to police reports.

Both employees ran to a nearby cooler and locked themselves inside, leaving several customers in the front of the restaurant with the two men. The two men ordered the customers to get on the floor and then fled, empty-handed, out the front door, police said.

About 18 hours later, police arrived at Dollar General, 1850 Bluffton Road, where the store manager said a man had run in and demanded money with a large knife or machete-style weapon.

The manager told police he was assisting a customer at the counter about 8:30 p.m. when a man about 5-foot-3 entered through the front doors. He was white and wearing jeans, a tan jacket, a white bandanna covering his face and a red baseball hat.

The manager gave the man money from the drawer. He fled out the front door and got into a vehicle, police said.

At 10:42 p.m., three men entered Arby’s restaurant at 9831 Lima Road carrying handguns, according to police reports.

One of the men approached the manager and pushed her to the floor, she told police. The woman ran to the drive-through window and crawled out and onto the ground.

One of the robbers noticed the woman had escaped and yelled to the other men that she was gone. The three men then exited the restaurant and the manager ran back inside, locking the doors, reports said.

Nothing was stolen during the holdup, according to police reports.

Foster said fast-food restaurants, especially those open 24 hours, can be easier targets for thieves simply because they are open during odd hours.

Robbers can watch the businesses during the day while other customers are around that help them blend in and then determine the perfect window of opportunity to strike, she said.

“They want a time where it’s unlikely that there will be customers to be witnesses or a time when there are only a few employees,” Foster said.

Foster praised employees from all three businesses for being alert and aware of their surroundings.

“That’s something we’ve been preaching for some time, especially with all of the bank robberies last year, the apartment complex robberies and the businesses hit over the holidays. People need to be alert and be aware of their surroundings,” Foster said.

“It seems these people were very much alert and paying attention to who was coming into their store,” Foster said.