Police

Elderly man held up at gunpoint for $18 in senior center

A surveillance video shows the suspect entering Erma Cava Houses.

A twenty-one-year-old man pointed the barrel of a handgun at the head of a 77-year-old Longwood resident at the Erma Cava Housing for the Elderly complex on Southern Boulevard on Jan. 7, demanded all of his money. The victim handed over everything he had—-$18 in cash. 

The incident alarmed seniors, an elected official and the prominent management company that oversees affairs in that building and many others in the neighborhood. 

A video from the building’s security company shows the suspect, Tyler Dortch, swiftly entering the building two steps behind a resident at 10:50 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 7. The security guard lets the suspect through without checking his identification or demanding he sign the guest log. 

After entering, Dortch takes the elevator to the sixth floor, takes out a silver handgun, threatens the victim, then leaves the building and flees in the direction of Barretto Street. 

Although the victim was unharmed, the light the incident cast on security problems in the building has led to the removal of the company that was previously responsible for residents’ safety.  

Seniors leaving the building declined to give their names but said that security staff was not always visible at the front desk, and only occasionally asked for identification at the front door. Some seniors said that they learned of the robbery from their neighbors in the bulding. But everyone of those the Express spoke with said that they had not been informed of the the incident by the building’s management agency, SEBCO, at 885 Bruckner Blvd, a three-minute walk away.

A caretaker who said she has worked at Erma Cava for four years said she was rarely been asked for identification. 

In the aftermath of the incident, there are now two security officers on duty behind the window next to the front door. A supervisor for the Sentry Security Company on site disclosed that the staff member on duty on January 7 is no longer employed by the company.

SEBCO’s Executive Vice President, Salvatore Gigante Jr. provided the following statement:

“SEBCO and our staff take this matter extremely serious and have worked closely with all parties including the local police department to improve and maintain the highest level of service to ensure that our residents remain safe.”

At his district office on Westchester Ave, City Council member Rafael Salamanca Jr. said that he was aware of the incident, and is intervening to ensure that seniors in the neighborhood remain safe from predatory criminals. 

“There’s clearly an issue with security,” said Salamanca, pointing out that he has visited the facility, and will meet with SEBCO officials to “spearhead an initiative to host community education workshops for seniors around safety. My district office will be vigilant on those that prey on the most vulnerable.”

Salamanca praised two rookie officers from the 41st Precinct whose vigilance led to Dortch’s arrest the day after the incident, shortly after the precinct had posted a photo of the suspect. The officers, Rufino Ortiz and Emmanuel Jaime, recognized the suspect from the poster while on patrol. Dortch ran when he saw the cruiser, leading them to follow him to Hall Place, where they nabbed him. 

The suspect was carrying a gun when they nabbed him, and is now being held at Rikers Island on $50, 000 bail, facing charges of robbery and criminal possession of a weapon.

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