Two casino-related robberies within three weeks have spurred a warning by Washington State’s Renton Police spokesperson, Sandra Havlik. Her warning stems from recent Renton robberies in which suspects may have followed their victims home from local casinos.
Washington casinos are a popular destination for Oregon residents and they should stay alert to someone possibly following them from a casino.
In the second of two nighttime incidents, a male suspect assaulted and robbed a returning 81-year-old casino patron of about $1,000 cash outside her Renton house. A few weeks prior, two men robbed a 59-year-old casino employee arriving back at her Renton home; they got away with $5,000.
Police view the two crimes as separate. “We have nothing right now to tie them together,” Havlik said.
As cashless casinos increase in number, they may cut down on robberies. But in the meantime, the RPD’s Havlik wants Renton residents carrying cash winnings to remain aware that someone could be following them.
81-year-old robbed after a winning night at Muckleshoot Casino
What started out on Oct. 6 as an elderly patron’s fun night at the Muckleshoot Casino ended with fear, bruises, and a hospital trip for her.
She reportedly scored a few wins at Muckleshoot in Auburn and then got into her car in the parking lot. Then she drove home with $1,000 to $1,200 in her purse.
On arriving home and unaware of any impending danger, she exited her car. A man, only vaguely describable afterward because of the night darkness, assaulted her and grabbed the money.
She had fallen to the ground out of fright, the victim’s daughter told the police. The daughter called in the crime at around 2:45 a.m., saying that the assailant had hit her mother in the head.
The victim was taken to the hospital and was expected to recover.
Washington casino employee robbed at Renton home
Another frightening robbery occurred in Renton just a few weeks before. The victim this time had left the Macau Casino in Tukwila, her place of employment, in the pre-dawn hours.
When the 59-year-old woman arrived home just before 4 a.m., two males robbed her of the $5,000 she was carrying. Again, describing the robbers proved difficult because the crime took place in the dark.
Casino winners seem unfortunately vulnerable to people looking for someone to rob. There have been cases of casino patrons being shadowed by others who later robbed them.
Oregon’s not without casino-linked crime, either. In a very frightening incident this summer, Javier Francisco Vigil allegedly drew a pistol at a cashier’s cage and threatened to “bathe everyone in blood.”
After being handed $70,000, he fired at a tribal police officer and was wounded in the ensuing gunfire exchange, and then arrested.
How to stay safe while gambling at Washington casinos
Casinos have a vested interest in the safety of their customers. Their reputations are at stake, and they can suffer economic damage from news coverage or customer chatter following a crime linked to them.
Because of that, as well as for other self-benefits, most casinos have operational security, including security cameras with multiple views all over the property. Unfortunately, the cameras didn’t prevent the crime.
So even with plentiful surveillance, patrons themselves need to have “situational awareness.” Here are some tips for staying safe at casinos:
- If possible, request your winnings in a check instead of cash.
- Use the service button to call a slot attendant.
- Request that security escort you to your car, especially if you’re taking winnings home.
- Use the buddy system when visiting a casino. Slot players are in an especially vulnerable position since they play facing forward.
- Friends can take turns watching each other’s backs.
It’s not uncommon for casino crime victims to be elderly and alone. Casino parking lots seem to be a particularly vulnerable place, and patrons should remain aware of carrying cash into a casino as well as out of it.
If someone thinks they’re being tailed, she advises heading to a police station or a public place where they can call 911. Anyone with any info regarding the recent Renton robberies should call the Renton Police Department.