Hooded sweatshirt-wearing man suspected of Wellington armed robbery

WELLINGTON, Fla. - While enjoying a coffee and doughnut in his car, a Wellington man says he feared for his life Sunday when a man with a gun pounded on his car window and demanded money. 

Hector Franco, 23, of Wellington was arrested Sunday after a deputy in the plaza says they saw a man wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt smash the victim’s window out.

Now, detectives with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office are investigating if the suspect is tied to several other robberies within the past week.

The victim says the suspect, later identified as Franco, screamed at him while he tried handing over the $62 in his wallet. Franco placed his hand inside of the vehicle, demanding more money, and left when the man told him that was all he had, an arrest report states. 

“He took his left hand with a little black gun and just hit the window and knocked the window out. He starts screaming at me, me. Viscously, give me your f-ing money.  Give me all you f-ing money," James Ahern, the victim, said in an interview.

Four days earlier, an armed suspect wearing a blue hoodie walked into a Chevron gas station at 11:30 p.m. in the 1300 block of Greenview Shores Blvd. demanding cash and cigarettes. 

PBSO described the suspect as a dark-skinned male, wearing a blue hoodie with red markings of “El Chapo 23” on the back and covering his face with a white t-shirt.  He is believed to have fled in a black SUV.

Deputies increased patrol in the shopping plaza near Greenview Shores Boulevard and Wellington Trace following several robberies in five days. 

One of the detectives on patrol Sunday saw Franco fleeing after smashing the man’s window and immediately began following him. Franco hopped a fence and got into a black Buick Enclave nearby.

Deputies conducted a traffic stop of the vehicle and arrested Franco.

“It’s something you don’t get to see very often in life. It’s called instant karma. Instant karma," said Ahern said.

The other robberies and suspect description in the shopping plaza are identical to the Oct. 22 robbery, a detective reported. Investigators are questioning Franco as a possible person of interest in those cases. 

Franco is charged with robbery and burglary with a firearm for the Oct. 22 incident. A Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson says detectives are continuing to investigate the other robberies and are processing evidence. 

Franco is being held at the Palm Beach County Jail without bond. On Monday, a judge ordered Franco to not have contact with the victim. 

“We owe them a debt of gratitude," Ahern said of PBSO's work.

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