Police Urge Caution Following Armed Robbery Stings
Columbus police say they will continue undercover stings targeting robbers who lure victims through online Buy/Sell/Trade sites, despite two confrontations that turned violent - and in one case deadly - in the past week.
Sergeant Shaun Laird says the undercover operation were based on previously reported robberies.
"In both cases the suspects would pose as a seller, and ask for the buyer to meet them at a certain location. In both cases there were at least two prior reports of armed robbery based on the phone numbers that were being used."
Police have identified the officer involved in Friday's fatal shooting. Officer Eric Richard was back up in a sting on the Near East Side. 16-year old Julius Erwin Tate was shot when he pulled a gun on another officer he thought was a buyer, and died at an area hospital. A similar incident took place on the South Side a few days earlier, when 18-year old Kyler Collier pulled a gun on an undercover officer. He was shot by Officer Robert Vass, and remains hospialized in stable condition.
Police are urging people to be cautious when following up online sales. Acting Police Chief Tim Becker says the Columbus Department of Public Safety operates five "Internet Purchase Exchange Zones" that provide more security.
"These zones are video recorded 24-hours a day, they're well lit, and if somebody's not willing to come and meet you there, that's probably a sign that you shouldn't be making the transaction. You should let a friend or family member know that you're going there, and you should give somebody else the details and the address of the person you're planning on meeting."
The five Columbus Exchange Zones are located in police substations on Karl Road, Olentangy River Road, Cleveland Avenue, Clime Road and Park Crescent Drive. Several suburban police departments also operate similar safe exchange zones.