Thief targets Detroit students on the way to school

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A student was robbed at Appoline and Pembroke on Detroit's west side.

It's a frightening ordeal. Imagine you're a kid walking to school when someone approaches you, shoves a gun in your face, and is ready to take your life just for a cell phone.

Reading, Robbery, and Arithmetic - some Detroit students were on the wrong end of the second one, learning hard lessons about crime and life in Detroit during the first week of school.

"He'd come up to them and talk to them, then all of a sudden there's a shotgun displayed," said Capt. Kenneth Balinski of the Detroit Police Department.

Capt. Balinski says that's how a man - now behind bars - committed most of his five robberies in a little less than two hours Thursday morning.

"We would get to one location 10 minutes later another run comes out, then 20 minutes later another run comes out. We know it's the same person.”

Four of his seven victims were kids walking to International Prep Academy.

"It's a scary situation, especially for those kids," said Tony Strong, a nearby resident.

Tony Strong received a letter from the school when he picked up his grandson.

"It's getting dangerous out here and when they're sticking up little kids, that lets me know they have no heart, no morals about themselves."

The robber did have some reservations about ripping people off. Police say when he robbed one student of his cell phone at Appoline and Pembroke – the suspect had a change of heart and gave the phone back. He told the kid, "Don't grow up and be like me."

"Maybe he had a moment that he thought he would be the good guy, but he just went on being the bad guy," said Capt. Balinski.

That's because 10 minutes later he robbed a group of students at Outer Drive and Monte Vista.

Tyrone Finnie lives across the street.

"To rob a kid? How much can a kid have? A cell phone. A cell phone. They're giving them away for free."

Police say the man also robbed three adults and even tried to change his clothes to throw police off his trail Investigators were able to identify the man through a video recording and they tracked him down Friday night.

"We went to the house and he was there sleeping and we put him in custody," said Balinski.

He went to sleep a robber and woke up in handcuffs.

People who live in the northwest Detroit neighborhood are still unnerved.

"I'm always keeping a lookout man,” said Finnie. “Sometimes when I'm home, and I see the kids getting out, I stand out here and I watch them go home."

Police in the 12th precinct patrol the routes kids take to school, but there's always a need for more people to watch out for children walking to and from school.

The volunteer neighborhood radio patrol plans to step up recruitment to make that happen.