Dallas police connected Uptown attacks, but never issued alert




Posted on May 14, 2012 at 10:24 PM

Updated Monday, May 14 at 10:38 PM

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DALLAS — As he does every so often, Steve Curran woke up early on a recent Saturday morning and walked from his Highland Park apartment to a Starbucks only a few blocks away.

He walked down the Katy Trail and stopped at the nearby streetside patio to sip a coffee. Curran, 57, never imagined his coffee break would be interrupted by two men waving a gun.

While he sat on the patio, they snatched his cell phone and took off.

“I was angry,” Curran told News 8.

So angry, in fact, he chased after the men down Knox Street, a busy road lined with restaurants and shops. Curran even briefly considered throwing a restaurant chair at the fleeing suspects.

“He only had one gun,” Curran said. “I live in Highland Park. I walk half a block past the Katy Trail. I don’t really want to carry a pistol, but I guess I’ll start.”

The two suspects got away and went on to rob more people, police now admit.

Dallas police say the same two men are responsible for 14 armed robberies over the past 10 days. Most of the attacks are centered around the popular Uptown district in Dallas.

“It’s really unfortunate when things like this happen, especially in a fun and popular place,” said Dallas City Council member Pauline Medrano, who heads the Public Safety Committee.

On Friday, Dallas police linked 11 of the attacks, but the department never issued a warning. Over the weekend, three more people would be robbed.

"Charles," who asked us not to use his real name, was among those attacked. The 34-year-old father was ambushed while jogging on the Katy Trail early Sunday morning.

“I turned around, looked over my left shoulder and he was pointing a gun —  running with it,” he said.

Dallas police finally issued a warning after public pressure from news reports of the weekend attacks.

“They should put out a warning and say, ‘Hey, there’s a guy loose with a gun, robbing people,’” said George Mylonas, 64.

He was talking on his phone outside his apartment about 10:30 p.m. last week when one of the men approached him with a gun.

“He said, ‘Don’t say anything. Don’t scream; I’m going to pop you,’” Mylonas recalled.

Dallas police have still not spoken publicly about the spree. The department only issued a statement Monday afternoon saying, in part, that officers “must continually balance the need to inform the public against releasing information that could jeopardize the investigation and potential suspect identification.”

So far, the suspects have rarely made off with anything more than cell phones. Yet, they often use violent tactics, pushing victims to the ground or punching them.

The suspects choked and hit "Dakota," 25, over the weekend. They took his wallet and his cell phone.

“One said, ‘strangle him until he gives us our money,’” he said.

Four of the attacks were centered on the Katy Trail, a popular 3.5-mile running path cutting through Uptown.

Dallas police have since boosted patrols and added undercover officers.

“I don’t want to create a sense that everybody needs to be scared on the Katy Trail, because that’s absolutely not the case,” said Robin Baldock, executive director of the Friends of the Katy Trail.

The non-profit maintains the running path and provides some security, but Baldock said her group does not plan to add patrols at this time.

"It's frightening, because I run a lot by myself out here," said jogger Christine Shirer. "I think I'm safe during the day... but maybe I am not.”

Police provided this description of the two suspects:

The first suspect is described as a black male, approximately 20 to 30 years old. He is between 5'-8" and 6'-2" and weighs 150-160 pounds. He has been armed with a blue steel semi-automatic handgun.

The second suspect is described as a black male, approximately 20 to 22 years old. He  is between 5'-8" and 5'-10" and weighs approximately 160 pounds. He may have a gold tooth and moles near his eyes. He has been armed with a silver colored semi-automatic handgun.

The suspects' vehicle is a gray or silver four-door sedan. It may be a Chrysler or a Chevy Impala.

E-mail jbetz@wfaa.com