Fort Mill homicide linked to Charlotte robberies

Saturday • October 11, 2008

Two-state crime spree

CHARLOTTE -- Police are warning people in the Charlotte area to be on the lookout for a group of criminals they say have "no regard for human life." Wearing masks and gloves, they've killed one person and shot two others during a string of robberies that started in August.

Authorities in York and Mecklenburg counties know little about the robbers, who often hold victims at gunpoint, then get away in minivans stolen from the Steele Creek area, said David Graham, one of Charlotte-Mecklenburg's deputy police chiefs. Officers usually find the stolen vehicles ditched near the crime scenes.

Police say four robberies appear to be related and have escalated in violence since they began on Aug. 3. On Wednesday, a 47-year-old Pineville, N.C., man was shot to death during the most recent robbery, which happened at Anyday Payday Loans in the Carowinds area of Fort Mill Township. Police say they're still trying to determine if this group is responsible for other crimes.

Police encourage anyone who sees the suspects or something suspcious to call 911. They encourage store owners -- especially ones in southwest Charlotte or northern York County -- to be aware of their surroundings and watch out for groups of men in minivans.

Escalating crime spree

• AUG. 3: The Zaxby's restaurant on South Tryon near I- 485 was robbed at gunpoint. The manager was shot and officers recovered a stolen minivan.

• MONDAY: Three men pulled up to Queen City Pizza and the China Saute restaurant next door, on Park Road in Dilworth. Two went into the Chinese food restaurant and one went into a pizzeria. During the robberies, the suspect shot the co-owner of the pizzeria in the leg. All three robbers escaped in a Plymouth Voyager.

• WEDNESDAY: Three masked men with guns walked through the front door of the Anyday Payday Loans office on U.S. 21 near S.C. 51 in Fort Milll Township around 6:30 p.m. According to surveillance photos, one man jumped over the counter, a second stood by the counter, and a third stood near a customer. That robber told the customer to face the wall, which he did. While one robber was getting money from the cash register, he got into a scuffle with an employee, Joseph Fatigato, 47, of Pineville. Fatigato was shot and later taken to Carolinas Medical Center, where he died. The robbers escaped in a Plymouth Voyager, which they left abandoned nearby on S.C. 51, still running.

-- The Charlotte Observer