Three arrested after restaurant robberies

Tampa police call it a big arrest.

Officers tracked down a group of men they believe are responsible for a series of violent armed robberies in the Seminole Heights area.

The most recent happened Sunday night at Fodder and Shine restaurant on North Florida Avenue. Just two days before that, police say The Independent Bar and Cafe was targeted.

It's a disappointment for small businesses working to revitalize the area. But neighbors say the crimes do not represent the entire community.

Slicing cucumbers and pouring lemonade, the staff at Seminole Heights General Store are in the middle of it all.

"I love Florida Avenue," employee Jeremy Connor said. "It's one of my favorite streets. We have The Independent, we have Fodder and Shine we have Seminole Heights General Store, we have vinyl stores."

Businesses here are growing together. So, when one takes a blow, they all feel it.

"It's quite shocking to say the least," Connor said.

Sunday night, Tampa Police say three men - Devin Smith, Alexander Jackson and Darrell Poole barged through the back door of Fodder and Shine restaurant.

"They held the employees at gunpoint. They robbed them and also robbed the safe," said Tampa Police Spokesperson Andrea Davis.

They made it convenient for police who were already patrolling after a similar robbery Friday night at The Independent, just a half mile down the road.

"We knew it was only a matter of time within a couple of days that this was going to happen again and fortunately, our patience paid off," Davis said. "We performed a pit maneuver on the vehicle, all the suspects fled on foot, but air service was above, also doing patrol because of the robbery and they were able to direct officers to the suspects who were all caught."

None of the employees were hurt.

The worst part, according to Michelle Baker, owner of Fodder and Shine, is that it was an inside job. She said one of the suspects is a now-former employee.

Davis said, "We believe these three suspects have been involved in multiple crimes in that area. By arresting them, there is going to be a major change in that area."

Neighboring businesses want to make it clear that a few criminals won't destroy the community they're rebuilding.

"I have lived here for 18 years," Connor said. :I have seen it when we had the depression and now it's on the up-rise."

At this point, police have only charged the three men in the Fodder and Shine robbery. However, they are suspects in several other home and business robberies in the Seminole Heights area.

Police say all have spent time in prison, so the chances of them getting out are not very good.