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Continued: Bus stops and transit stations were the top targets in Minneapolis robberies

  • Article by: MATT MCKINNEY , Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 2, 2014 - 11:12 AM

In the other case, a group was getting onto its party bus at 4th and Hennepin in July and several would-be robbers tried to get on as well. One suspect grabbed a cellphone and ran off the bus. Several people from the bus chased after the suspect, and one of them was assaulted and knocked unconscious. During the assault, the victim’s cash and cellphone were stolen, the police report said.

iPhones bring $1,000

Evidence keeps piling in that stolen phones can fetch lots of money on the black market, either from local phone shops acting as a criminal fence or from overseas buyers willing to pay top dollar for the latest smartphones, which U.S. consumers buy at subsidized prices.

That iPhone 5 that you bought for $200 with a two-year plan can sell for hundreds more, even $1,000, in China, said Justin Nordin, a technology consultant based in Minneapolis. “The market, especially in China, has been insanely good for iPhones,” he said.

Kjos said he’s hopeful that the so-called “kill switch” bill proposed at both the state and federal levels gets passed. Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau has strongly supported the legislation, along with University of Minnesota Police Chief Greg Hestness.

The federal version of the bill, introduced last month by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, would require that new phones have a kill switch that would render the phone useless if it’s stolen. The user’s data would be stored securely on a cloud and could be recovered, but the phone wouldn’t work.

“The phone will basically be a brick,” said Klobuchar, who spoke about the issue at a Senate hearing last month.

Chef turns vigilante

The thefts of cellphones and other technology are showing no signs of slowing down in 2014. The robberies often occur quickly, while phone users are distracted.

Maryan Mohamud was visiting Minneapolis on March 19 from Fargo, N.D., when at the Village Market mall in south Minneapolis her brother called. Standing in a busy corridor of the mall, watched by two surveillance cameras, she pulled out the phone to answer.

“I answered the phone and said ‘Hello,’ and a guy next to me just pulled the phone out of my hand,” said Mohamud.

A friend of hers along with two other bystanders ran after the thief as he headed for an exit. When they all got outside, one of the men chasing the thief turned on the others and pulled out a gun. He was actually working with the thief and told the others to stop chasing him, said Mohamud.

“He just laughed and said, ‘You guys should go back,’ ” she said.

In one of the most egregious cases, an 8-year-old boy was punched in the face for his iPad while standing on a Nicollet Avenue South sidewalk. A restaurant chef named Mohamed Armeli who witnessed the March 6 attack gave chase.

The suspect, Aaron Stillday, had a violent criminal history. Armeli, a genial man who wears chef’s whites while running Christo’s Greek restaurant, said he found his inner vigilante the moment he saw the boy’s bloodied face. “I saw red,” he said.

Armed with a box cutter, he chased down Aaron Stillday while dialing 911. He cornered Stillday a few blocks from the restaurant and kept him there until police arrived a short time later.

“It rained cops,” said Armeli. “Thank God!”

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  • Transit stops such as bus and light rail stations are the most likely places to get robbed, according to an analysis of police data.

  • Mohamed Armeli stood on the sidewalk outside Christos, the restaurant he manages, near where an assault on an 8-year-old boy took place on Nicollet Ave. S. Armeli gave chase and caught the suspect.

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