ALAMEDA -- A man armed with a handgun confronted two 14-year-old girls as they were walking away from Alameda South Shore Center on Tuesday afternoon, stealing one girl's cell phone before he ran off.
Investigators suspect the man who carried out the brazen robbery -- which happened about 4:45 p.m. when the center is typically busy with shoppers -- also stole phones from two female victims at gunpoint just hours apart last month.
The girl robbed Tuesday was walking with her friend on Franciscan Way, which cuts through the center, when the man stopped them and brandished a black semi-automatic handgun, Alameda police Lt. Ted Horlbeck said.
While the teens did not see the man flee in a vehicle, they noticed what may have been a black Honda driving nearby a short time later, Horlbeck said.
It remains unclear, however, whether the vehicle is connected to the robbery.
Police think the same suspect was likely behind two robberies on Aug. 31.
The first occurred about 4:15 p.m. in the 1900 block of Central Avenue, or between Lafayette and Chestnut streets, where a man armed with a handgun confronted a woman as she was walking to the Alameda Beauty College.
The man, who stepped up behind the 29-year-old woman, pointed a handgun at her stomach while stealing her phone, police said. He then ran off toward Grand Street.
The second robbery occurred about 6:35 p.m. at Walnut Street and Alameda Avenue, where the victim was a 16-year-old girl. The teen was using the phone when the suspect approached and showed her a handgun tucked into his waistband.
No one has been injured during the robberies.
Investigators are linking the three cases based on the suspect's description and the way each robbery was carried out.
On Tuesday, the girls described the suspect as a Hispanic man about 20 years old, 5-feet-5-inches tall, and weighing 130 pounds wearing dark clothing.
Alameda police ask anyone with information to call 510-337-8340.
Reach Peter Hegarty at 510-748-1654 or follow him on Twitter.com/Peter_Hegarty/.