COLUMBIA, S.C. — The Richland County Sheriff's Department has arrested two men in connection to a string of armed robberies targeting the Hispanic community.
Sheriff Leon Lott spoke at a press conference Tuesday morning, where he called the suspects 'wolves' who had been preying on 'sheep,' or the Hispanic community. According to Lott, the two suspects are Charles A. Clippard and Michael J. Knox.
He described the department as being frustrated and angry at these robberies.
"The anger part is how these two wolves, and I'm going to describe them as wolves, cuase they were out looking for sheep and the sheep was our Hispanic community. How they focused on our Hispanic community," Sheriff Lott said.
According to Lott, the robberies provided "three weeks of terror in the Hispanic community in northeast Columbia." He believes that these suspects targeted this community because not all victims may have reported the crime.
The sheriff said there were 13 robberies with 27 victims in the last three weeks. The two suspects were arrested last weekend and still had some of the stolen property in their possession, according to investigators.
Clippard, 23, was arrested on Saturday and is being charged with four counts of armed robbery, four counts of kidnapping, first degree assault and battery, first degree burglary and possession of a weapon during a violent crime.
These charges are from an incident on Feb. 6 in the 8500 block of Old Percival Road where the victims reported two men with guns in ski masks kicked the door to their home down and demanded money, cell phones and threatened to kill them.
Knox was arrested on Sunday and is being charged with armed robbery, kidnapping and possession of a weapon during a violent crime.
His charges stem from a carjacking that happened on the 400 block of Percival Road on Jan. 30. where it was reported that two men approached the victim when he was walking to his car, put a gun to his head, and demanded the car keys and money. They then drove off with the victims car.
The two men are also suspected in 11 other armed robberies reported between Jan. 19 and Feb 6. In these incidents, cash and cell phones were usually stolen and all the victims were Hispanic.
The City of Columbia Police Department is investigating three recent armed robberies and Forest Acres is investigating one in connection to these suspects as well.
"Often times, crimes against Hispanic victims go unreported because they're afraid to come forward. We need to change that. We want them to know that they can trust us and feel comfortable reporting crime," Sheriff Lott said. " In these cases, it's because of the victims that came forward that we were able to make these arrests."
Maria Yturria spoke to the Hispanic community in Spanish, urging them to contact the Sheriff's Department if they were victims on a crime. She encouraged them to call a 24/7 phone line where they could speak to someone in Spanish.
"Estoy aquí para decirles que el departamento Del condado de Richland esta para ayudarles. Si ustedes han sido víctimos, por favor llámenos. Tengan suficiente confianza que saber que estamos aquí para asistirlos.
Tenemos una línea de español donde pueden llamar y hablar con un policía en español 24 horas al día, siete días a la semana," she said,
That phone number is 803-309-4824.
"Por favor si han sido víctimas de un crimen, llámanos, tengan suficiente confianza que saber que nosotros estamos para asistirlos. Pero ocupamos qué la comunidad nos tiene confianza Y se comunican con nosotros," she said.