Wake Forest police search for 3 suspects in armed robbery; Asian restaurant owner targeted

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (WTVD) -- Wake Forest police are searching for three masked men wanted in the armed robbery of a local restaurant owner. It happened on Dec. 23 outside the family's home in the 1100 block of Cimarron Parkway -- after the family was followed there from their restaurant on South Main Street. Authorities say this is the latest incident in a series of violent home invasions targeting Asian restaurant owners across the state.

The Zhu family had closed their restaurant, Lin's Garden, and gone home for the night when the wife, Cindy, was robbed by three armed men. It happened outside their home, all while their three young children helplessly looked on.

"There were three black man, [wearing] everything was black, they just came from another car, they came from there and robbed us and two of them had guns," said 9-year-old Frank Zhu.

The boy spoke to ABC11 translating for his parents who speak very little English. Frank said the suspects took their money and a cell phone, but otherwise left them unharmed. Since then, the family has heard that there were three suspicious men watching the restaurant from the parking lot in the hours leading up to the robbery.

Meanwhile, what happened to the family-run business is serving as a warning to other nearby business owners and their customers. That includes those working at the New Vision Spa and Salon located in the same plaza. While they were shocked to hear the news about their neighbors, they said it reinforces the need to continue certain safety precautions.

"Well, we've always tried to be safe around here. We leave in groups of more than one person leaving at a time together, we try to leave at the same time, and make sure everyone gets to their car safely, " said Celestina Phoebus, with New Vision Spa and Salon.

As for customers, they say they too were shocked to hear the news. For Mary Woods, she says while her heart goes out to the family, she hopes this will encourage them to be extra careful in the future as it did for her after she was the victim of a mugging years ago.

"It taught me as a woman when you're leaving alone at night to be much more cautious and aware of your surroundings. So now when I leave someplace, I call and ask someone to escort me," Woods explained.

It's tips like these the Wake Forest Police Department is stressing for nearby business owners and residents as they continue to search for the three men wanted in the crime. They say this is the second time a Chinese restaurant owner has been targeted since September. Anyone with information is urged to call the police department at (919) 554-6150.

Police are also offering these safety tips:

-Always be aware of your surroundings and the people who are around you.
-If you have a cell phone, carry it with you when walking or driving and be prepared to use it to call 911 for help. Be prepared to give your exact location to the emergency operator.
-Don't walk or jog early in the morning or late at night when the streets are deserted.
-When out at night, try to have a friend walk with you.
-Carry only the money you'll need on a particular day.
-Don't display your cash or any other inviting targets such as pagers, cell phones, hand-held electronic games, or expensive jewelry and clothing.
-If you think someone is following you, switch directions or cross the street. If the person continues to follow you, move quickly toward an open store or restaurant or a lighted house. Don't be afraid to yell for help.
-Try to park in well-lighted areas with good visibility and close to walkways, stores, and people.
-Make sure you have your key out as you approach your door.
-Always lock your car, even if it's in your own driveway; never leave your motor running.
-Do everything you can to keep a stranger from getting into your car or to keep a stranger from forcing you into his or her car.
-If someone tries to rob you, give up your property-don't give up your life.
-If you are robbed or assaulted, report the crime to the police. Try to describe the attacker accurately. Your actions can help prevent someone else from becoming a victim.

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