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Armed Grow Rippers Strike Out Again

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For the second time in 18 days, an innocent family was victimized by a
group of violent and armed thugs looking to steal a marijuana crop.

On Friday, shortly before 7 p.m., an Asian couple were home with their
teenaged son when a group of four or five men, armed with baseball bats and
metal pipes, kicked down the front door to the older West Richmond house
which the family began renting just last month.

This incident comes less than three weeks after a couple living in an older
house in central Richmond awoke to the sound of four men, brandishing
handguns, kicking down their front door and walking into their bedroom
while looking for marijuana. In these cases, the grow rippers (the term
used by police to describe groups that break into homes looking to rip off
marijuana growing operations) either got the wrong address or were a few
months too late.

The victims of both mistaken home invasions told their frightening stories
to The Richmond Review on the condition their names and addresses not be
published. On Dec. 15, a 35-year-old man and his 23-year-old wife were
bound and blindfolded by four gun-wielding bandits who kicked in their
front door shortly after 2 a.m. while the couple were sound asleep.

"A gun was staring me in the face," the husband said of the incident, which
left him shaky for several days.

He recalls hearing the front door splintering, and almost instantly seeing
the light in his bedroom flick on and the men at the foot of his bed and at
least one gun pointed directly at him.

He was struck in the head, causing a 10-stitch gash near his eye, after he
began to yell expletives, demanding to know what the intruders were doing
in his house.

"Where's the weed, where's the money?" the men repeatedly demanded, the
husband said. The couple's arms were bound and eyes covered with duct tape.

But the house was empty, and shortly after the intruders checked the
garage, they grabbed a few valuables, including a high-end stereo, cellular
phone and some tools.

"I always thought I was safe if I was home. Well that's gone. I was in
shock for days."

Though the incident hasn't scared the couple out of their house, "it's just
sped up my schedule."

The couple read in the newspaper two weeks later that the grow rippers
struck again just across the street and a couple houses down the road, two
doors away from an elementary school. Although the bandits targeted the
correct house, they still came away empty-handed when the residents
defended themselves. Police seized 21 pounds of dried marijuana from the home.

In the more recent home invasion, a middle aged Asian man was sitting in
his living room when he noticed someone moving outside his front door.
Without warning, the door burst open and he was immediately pepper-sprayed
in the face by a masked man, causing tremendous pain and blinding him.

After he was ordered to lay face down on the floor, his wife, who was in
the kitchen preparing dinner, was forced down and asked to point out where
the marijuana was being grown.

While one man stood outside the front door, the other three or four
suspects searched the house, going floor by floor, checking each room and
closet for marijuana. The couple's teenaged son was upstairs at the time
and was also ordered to lay down and not move.

After about 10 minutes, when it became clear to the suspects that the house
was empty, they left, but not until they first sprayed the air near the
front door with pepper spray and stole the family's passports and
citizenship papers.

"She's so scared now," said the mother's daughter, who was not at home at
the time. "I think we're a little bit lucky nobody was hurt."

On Sunday shortly before midnight, police believe the same grow rippers
struck again, but this time in central Richmond, hitting a house at 8420
Spires Rd.

The lone occupant of the home, a 26-year-old man, escaped through a
second-floor window and was later arrested by police. He is facing
drug-related charges.

The grow rippers discovered a significant grow op in the house and fled
with many plants.

Pubdate: Thu, 08 Jan 2004
Source: Richmond Review, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2004 Richmond Public Library
Contact: news@richmondreview.com
Website: Richmond News