Chestnut Hill rattled by robberies involving Tasers

The same, usually quiet block of East Highland Avenue in Chestnut Hill was the scene of two unusual recent robberies involving Tasers.
The same, usually quiet block of East Highland Avenue in Chestnut Hill was the scene of two unusual recent robberies involving Tasers. (CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer)
Posted: March 10, 2013

Chestnut Hill has been rattled by two recent robberies in which the assailants assaulted and stunned their victims with Tasers.

The same quiet, tree-lined block off Germantown Avenue was the scene of both robberies, which occurred just a few weeks apart. The victims were attacked shortly after leaving their shifts at local restaurants.

It is not clear whether the robberies were connected, police said. There also is no known connection to several Taser-wielding robbers who struck in Abington Township and in Hatfield Township in recent weeks. Police in Hatfield arrested several suspects before the most recent incident in Chestnut Hill.

The most recent robbery on the 200 block of East Highland Avenue was early Sunday, when a 21-year-old man and a female friend were walking to the man's home.

The man, who asked not to be identified, said three men approached from behind, punched him without warning, then jabbed a Taser into his neck.

"I was down on the ground, and they tased me again, and I saw my friend on the ground," the man said. "One guy said, 'If you make any noise, I'll kill you.' "

The man, who has lived on the block for three years, said the men stole money from him before running off.

"It was shocking," he said. "It was terrifying."

After that robbery, the block's neighbors gathered to discuss security measures, and agreed to leave lights on in front of their homes late at night and keep an eye out for unknown people. Neighbors also urged anyone who feels threatened to knock on doors or yell for help, said Laura Lucas, who hosted the meeting.

"We have a block that doesn't mind getting involved and looking out for each other," said Lucas, a member of the Chestnut Hill Community Association. "Our neighbors have a hardy spirit, and we all wanted to talk about what to do."

After the first robbery in January, when a 32-year-old woman was pistol-whipped and tased while walking to her car from her job at the Osaka Restaurant on Germantown Avenue, the association also got the word out to the area's restaurants.

"I started asking my delivery guys to drive the waitresses to their cars," said Pete Thomas, owner of Fiesta Pizza on Germantown Avenue, which closes at 10 on weeknights, later on weekends. "Or I'd have someone walk with them. I wanted to make sure none of them are walking alone."

The response is typical of Chestnut Hill, Thomas said. The neighborhood has long prided itself on being proactive in terms of crime and community involvement.

Two armed robberies on one block involving Tasers would be unusual anywhere in Philadelphia, but they seemed particularly out of place on Highland Avenue, where well-kept homes overlook tidy front yards with shrubs and gardens.

In January, a woman was mugged and tased near her home in Abington, Philadelphia police said. Abington police did not return calls.

On Feb. 24, a man was robbed in Hatfield Township after he met with two men and a woman in the belief that he would be buying a car from them. Instead, the man was stunned with a Taser and robbed. Three suspects were later arrested.

Most police departments do not keep statistics on crimes involving Tasers, but in recent years the weapons have popped up in an increasing number of robberies across the country. Crime experts say Tasers and stun guns may be seen as forms of intimidation less dangerous than guns but just as effective.

Holdups involving Tasers are relatively uncommon in Philadelphia, Officer Christine O'Brien said, with most armed robberies involving guns or knives.

Police have not identified suspects in either of the Chestnut Hill robberies. There were slight differences between the robberies and no solid descriptions from either victim, and no surveillance video was found in the area.

In the Sunday robbery, the man and the woman, also 21, were walking about 2 a.m. from the Germantown Avenue restaurant where he worked when the men approached them. They made off with $200 in cash, his phone, and his iPod, police said.

In the earlier case, the woman was returning to her parked car about 10:30 p.m. Jan. 14. After she got in, two men came toward her, she told police, and one pointed a gun at her and demanded money. She threw her purse at them, O'Brien said, but they dragged her from the car and hit her in the head with the gun. The other man then used a Taser on her as she lay on the ground.

She lost consciousness but saw the men run toward Germantown Avenue, she told police, with $600 in cash and her iPhone. After a passerby heard her screams and came to her rescue, she was treated for a head injury and cuts at Einstein Medical Center.

Contact Allison Steele at 215-854-2641 or

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