Three masked robbers soaked a Mesa check cashing business with gasoline and set it on fire Friday, the fifth in a recent string of such crimes that are growing increasingly violent, police said.
Police received a frantic 911 call at 4 p.m. from an employee of Checks Cashed, 1040 E. Main St. She told the dispatcher between screams that men were inside trying to rob the store. The gasoline was sprayed from a garden sprayer into the cash office through the opening at the bottom of the cashier’s window and along the lobby counter.
The three men, described as Hispanic, demanded in Spanish and English that the employees give them money, said Mesa detective Tim Gaffney.
After lighting the lobby and counter on fire, the men fled in a stolen white Dodge pickup truck, which was found later at Miller and Second Street.
The three employees were not injured, but one did get sprayed with gasoline. They huddled in the back of store, too terrified to leave the burning building because they thought the men were outside waiting for them, Gaffney said.
"The robbers have become a lot bolder and more violent," Gaffney said. "We need to stop them before someone is injured."
Police have spread the word to all other check cashing businesses to warn employees.
Police believe the same men have struck three other Mesa check cashing businesses within the last two months.
On Nov. 5, two men in Halloween masks entered a Western Union, 1241 E. Broadway Road, and sprayed gasoline through the cashier’s window. The clerk called 911 and the men left without money.
On Oct. 16, three men in masks entered a Western Union, 546 E. Broadway Road, after spraying the perimeter with gasoline and dousing a clerk through the window. The men got away with an undisclosed amount of cash.
A month earlier, three men wearing bandannas over their faces robbed the same business by backing a stolen Dodge pickup into the business and robbing the clerk at gunpoint.
They also are suspected of spraying gasoline in a check cashing business at 505 S. Country Club Drive.
Mesa police ask anyone with information to call (480) 644-2211.