It’s a story that started off all too familiar. Another restaurant on Oahu was robbed, the fifth since last week Monday, and the latest in a series that also includes convenience stores and banks.
Elena’s restaurant in Waipahu was hit Saturday morning, but unlike the other robberies, the suspect in this case was caught.
Police nabbed the suspect within a half-hour of the robbery at 7:40 a.m. They applauded nearby residents for their help and credited the employer for giving good advice to their workers.
Because of the recent rash of robberies, Elena’s co-owner Mellissa Cedillo made it clear to her employees what they should do when confronted by a robber.
“You know what, run! Give them whatever they want, run, save your life,” she said. “And that’s always been my instructions to them.
“Three of my employees were able to run out (but) one employee got caught behind and she (gave him) the money that was in the cash drawer.”
Cedillo said that just after seven this morning, her workers “were all in the kitchen, getting ready. A man came in with a T-shirt over his head, wielding a knife — a pretty big knife — and started yelling ‘give me your money, give me your money!'”
The suspect got what he demanded, but his getaway was a short one.
HPD Major Lester Hite said the man “exited the restaurant, and due to citizens stepping forward, we had good witnesses pointing us in the direction of flight. It led us to an apartment complex where it was pointed out where he entered (it).”
Hite credited the restaurant’s new security camera system with helping identify the suspect.
“There are eight cameras with night vision,” Cedillo said, “and we got them installed last week Wednesday because when the Jack in the Box got robbed at gunpoint, we got a little bit scared, so we made our appointment sooner.”
Another reason for Elena’s increased security was that generators were stolen from their nearby catering trucks last week.
Even though the popular Waipahu diner was closed for five hours after the robbery, it was jammed with customers once police cleared the scene.
Hite once again applauded the efforts of residents in the neighborhood.
“With the rash of crimes occuring, it’s good to get the word out to people. … We’re very fortunate that people were willing to step up, guide responding officers or alert officers to the (suspect).”
Saturday’s robbery occurred in the Tropicana Square shopping mall, the same mall where a Jack in the Box was robbed on July 14.
It is unknown at this time whether the suspect was involved in any of the previous robberies that have recently hit banks, convenience stores and fast food restaurants around Oahu.