St. Petersburg police are hunting a man who robbed two real estate pros. In one case, he pulled a gun, zip-tied her hands and demanded a ransom from her husband.
ST. PETERSBURG – June 6, 2015 – Two Florida real estate professionals in Pinellas County Wednesday were threatened and robbed by a man who asked to see homes listed for sale.
In the first incident, a man pulled out a handgun, robbed the associate and bound her with zip ties. He then called her husband and demanded a ransom. However, something appears to have spooked the assailant and he fled. The agent freed herself and escaped to a neighbor's home.
The second incident occurred nearby and less than an hour later. The man again pointed a gun at an agent and robbed her of personal possessions.
Neither real estate professional was harmed.
"It's difficult when a crime impacts a member of our Realtor family, and our thoughts go out to the real estate associates who were attacked," says 2015 Florida Realtors® President Andrew Barbar. "Brokers across Florida are talking to their associates today, reminding them to stay safe and avoid risky behaviors. We hope police arrest the suspect soon."
According to Yolanda Fernandez, spokesperson for the St. Petersburg police, the suspect was driving a gray or silver Nissan Murano. He's a white male in his mid-40s, between 5 feet 5 and 5 feet 8. In addition to a hat, he wore a blue shirt and black pants, police said. He has brown hair and a goatee.
Detectives were still searching for the man Thursday. The investigation continues.
According to an email warning sent last night by the Pinellas Realtor Organization (PRO), the suspect told the first professional his name was Robert Evans. "We have no indication if he used his real name or a made-up name," says Fernandez. "That's something we're trying to track down."
If the suspect calls to request a home showing, PRO has asked members to verbally agree to meet the man but then contact the St. Petersburg Police Department at (727) 639-0542.
Safety is an ongoing concern for Realtors, but a series of recent incidents that includes the death of an Arkansas Realtor in September, has sparked strong industry awareness.
"Realtors should always trust their instincts when something doesn't feel right," says Barbar. "However, Realtor safety relies on more than instinct. We must assume that every client meeting, every home showing and every open house is a potential safety threat, even when our instincts don't send a warning. If you're a full-time Realtor, safety is your full-time job."
Florida Realtors offers a 75-minute online Realtor safety course. It covers:
- How to safely hold open houses
- What to do before allowing a client into your car
- Simple and affordable office security ideas
- How to safely show property
- What you might be doing to attract an attack
- Legal protection devices
The National Association of Realtors® offers a number of tools and educational articles on its website.
© 2015 Florida Realtors® All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.