A suspect in a string of violent home invasion burglaries this year that targeted Latino families in Minneapolis has been charged for allegedly zip-tying and threatening to kill a juvenile in one case.
Robert E. Buckingham, 33, of Minneapolis, was charged Tuesday in Hennepin County District Court with one count each of first-degree burglary and first-degree aggravated robbery for an Aug. 11 burglary. Search warrant affidavits link Buckingham and alleged accomplices to up to 23 burglaries in south Minneapolis.
Latino families with children as young as 9 months old were targeted by intruders wielding knives and guns demanding money.
“In several of the incidents the occupants of the residence are forced at gunpoint to a room or closet,” said one search warrant. “Buckingham has been linked to eight of the home invasions through historical GPS locations of his cellphone and video.”
Buckingham had not been charged in other cases by the end of the business day Tuesday. No other suspects have been charged, but Minneapolis police spokesman John Elder said a second suspect has been identified, while two more are being investigated. In the meantime, they believe Buckingham is linked to similar robberies.
“We are accumulating all the other cases where evidence indicates that he is obviously involved,” Elder said, who added that the victims may have been targeted because some are in the U.S. illegally, do not use banks and possess large amounts of cash.
Buckingham’s probation officer and stepmother allegedly identified him as someone captured in surveillance video at the scene of one case, according to a search warrant.
According to the criminal complaint against Buckingham: A couple told police that their duplex in the 2700 block of S. 12th Av. was robbed sometime between 6 p.m. and 6:52 p.m. on Aug. 11. They had left their home for 30 minutes and returned to find their 14-year-old son zip-tied in the bathroom. Their two other children, a 2-year-old and an older child with Down syndrome, were also home at the time and appeared unharmed.
The teenager told police he was in the shower when Buckingham forced him out, threatened at knife point to kill him and zip-tied his hands together.
“If you come out of the bathroom I will kill you,” Buckingham allegedly said, according to a search warrant.
Buckingham, who was armed with a “large knife,” ransacked the family’s home and stole about $10,000, the charges said.
A relative who lived in the unit below the family told police that a window screen in her unit had been cut out and the window was open.
Surveillance video from the area allegedly captured Buckingham walking around the house, walking out of the house and driving in the area. A search of his home allegedly yielded clothing that matched what he was wearing that night and $10,860 in cash.
Search warrants filed in association with the investigations paint a picture of terror and greed, and allege that Buckingham and another suspect belong to the same gang and “are working in concert to coordinate and conduct the home invasions.”
“Three suspects, at least two of them armed with guns, entered the window of the residence, held the three occupants at gunpoint, and took money and phones from the victims,” one search warrant said of a burglary in the 400 block of E. 36th St.
According to another search warrant: About 7 p.m. on June 26, a man in a white T-shirt, white gloves and wearing a backpack knocked on the door of a home in the 2700 block of S. 15th Av. When someone inside opened the door, the man, who was carrying a semiautomatic handgun, allegedly forced it open, grabbed the victim’s cellphone and turned it off.
“The suspect then forced [the victim] to ransack his mother’s bedroom,” the search warrant said. “During the incident the suspect punched [the victim] in the face.”
The victim’s juvenile sister was home at the time and watched through a partly opened door. The victim pleaded in Spanish for the man to spare his life as the man pointed the gun at him.
Surveillance video recovered from two locations near the home show that the man appeared to be Buckingham, according to a search warrant. He has not been charged in that case.
Buckingham’s criminal record includes convictions for first-degree burglary in three cases and a fifth-degree assault conviction.
On Dec. 6, 2013, a woman returned to her south Minneapolis home about 10:54 a.m. and found Buckingham hiding in her daughter’s room. He asked if the woman’s husband was home, and she said only she and her 3-year-old son were present. The woman ordered him to leave.
Buckingham “told Victim to shut up, grabbed Victim, and attempted to strangle her with a belt from her daughter’s room,” according to court documents. “[Buckingham] then punched Victim five times in the right side of her head.”
Buckingham demanded money and then walked around the house, rummaging through a backpack and taking cash before he fled. He threatened to return if the woman called police.
On Dec. 26, 2013, police responding to a burglary call chased and arrested Buckingham near the scene. The homeowner said he had knocked on her door. When she refused to let him in, he kicked the door, breaking it, and forced his way inside. She had been on the line with 911 and tried to hold the door shut. He fled the home when a 911 dispatcher called the home back.
Buckingham is in jail in lieu of $250,000 bail and has his first court appearance Wednesday afternoon.