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Armed robbers grab cash, jewelry

La Tapatia reports loss of more than &

36;50,000

PHOENIX ' Three armed robbers snatched at least &

36;50,000 worth of cash and gold jewelry from Antonio Hernandez's family business in Phoenix Thursday night, but first they ordered tacos and a burrito and waited patiently for their food.

When their order was ready, two of the robbers drew guns and demanded money from two cash registers at La Tapatia, a market at 125 S. Main St. that sells Mexican food, leather goods and jewelry.

They took the food. I guess they were really hungry, Hernandez said, shaking his head in disbelief.

He said one of the armed robbers waved a handgun and told him and employees working in the taqueria in the back of the shop to get on the floor. They quickly complied.

At the robber's demand, an employee opened the cash register that handles taqueria orders and the robber collected the cash.

Then he demanded Hernandez's wallet, which Hernandez said had no money in it.

The guy with the gun put his hands in my pocket to take it all, Hernandez said.

The groping robber found &

36;100 Hernandez had tucked deep in his pocket for a weekly shopping trip, he said.

Meanwhile, at the front of the small store, another of the robbers confronted Hernandez's brother-in-law and co-owner of La Tapatia, Jose Bugarin, who tended a cash register behind a glass jewelry counter. That robber, who also showed a gun, took cash from the till and gold necklaces, pendants, rings and other jewelry from the case, Hernandez said.

He also demanded the tape from a surveillance system that monitors the jewelry counter, but Bugarin refused to turn it over. Bugarin said he later gave the tape to police.

Then the robbers herded the store owners, employees and a woman shopping with three small children into a bathroom and told them to wait there.

Hernandez kept his eye on his watch in the crowded restroom and after eight minutes, decided it was safe to emerge and call police.

The 911 call came in at about 5:45 p.m., said Phoenix Police Chief Bob Kershaw. Officers learned that the robbery suspects were last seen walking north along Highway 99.

Talent police and Jackson County sheriff's deputies joined in the search. Phoenix police's dog tracked the suspects to Fern Valley Road, but the dog got tired and lost the scent trail in some heavy brush, Kershaw said.

The robbers were all described as Hispanic men.

One suspect looks about 28, is 6 feet tall, weighs about 250 pounds and was wearing a dark leather baseball cap with the letter D on the front. He had a handgun.

The second gun-toting robber is about 5 feet 10 inches tall. He wore a dark baseball cap with the letter L or I on it and a large, dark jacket with a white stripe around his chest.

The third suspect also wore a baseball cap and had a mustache and a goatee.

Kershaw said police are looking into why the robbers targeted the modest-looking market.

Hernandez said his family has owned La Tapatia for about 11 years. The shop has never been robbed before, he said.

Bugarin said the store is insured and he will calculate the full loss today for the insurance company. He estimated a loss of between &

36;50,000 and &

36;60,000.

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4459, or e-mail .