Two men who police said tried to steal a woman’s purse early Monday got more than they bargained for when as many as 15 of the victim’s family members and friends rushed to her aid and then severely beat, shot and stabbed the suspects.
Fayetteville police officers arrived at the scene of the melee in the Cambridge Arms apartments about 12:45 a.m. and found two men lying on the pavement of the parking lot with multiple stab and gunshot wounds. Police found a group of the woman’s relatives walking in the parking lot covered in blood.
One of the accused robbers was critically injured in the attack and remained on life support Monday, police said. The other was treated at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center and released.
Maria Consuelo Ramirez Flores, a longtime friend who knew the victim’s family when they were still in El Salvador, said through a translator Monday that robberies, break-ins and other crimes have been persistent problems in the area. The Hispanic community has gotten fed up, and some members decided to take matters into their own hands Monday morning, she said.
“They just decided to stop them and to arrest somebody,” Flores said. “It’s nothing that they talked about beforehand or planned. They’re tired of being the victims of attacks.”
According to police, 22-year-old Raufeal Weddy, of the 3900 block of Village Drive, and 26-year-old Terrel Battle, of the 1100 block of Clark Street, were armed with a handgun when they tried to rob Maria Guevara, 47, of her purse.
One of the suspects, a known Blood gang member, was wearing a red bandana across his face when he approached Guevara, according to police.
Guevara began screaming, alerting from 10 to 15 family members and friends who live in the same building, police spokesman Lt. Chris Davis said. They rushed out, and one of the alleged robbers fired a shot at them, he said.
“The round passed through the clothing of an Alex Echeverria, but failed to strike his body,” Davis said.
Guevara’s family members then ran after the two, caught them and disarmed them during a struggle, Davis said.
“Both suspects were shot during the initial struggle, with the suspect’s gun, and then the family severely beat, stabbed and cut both suspects,” Davis said.
Flores said she had just come home from a birthday party in Lumberton about 12:50 a.m. Monday when she saw the two men get out of a car driven by a third man.
Flores, who had been watching from her apartment in the building next door, went next door when she realized the men were attacking her friend.
Guevara’s relatives came outside and began struggling to put the robbers on the ground, she said.
“They got a little rough because they didn’t know how many more weapons they had, so they wanted to keep it under control,” Flores said.
Flores said one of the accused robbers tried to choke her at one point in the scuffle and that he then grabbed her by the arm and threw her to the ground.
The third man had the car doors open and was yelling for the men to get back inside, but he drove off after realizing his accomplices were outnumbered, Flores said. Police identified that vehicle as a silver Buick.
Neighbor Jessica Wodarz, 21, said she’d been sleeping when she heard a lot of yelling in Spanish coming from the building across the street. She looked outside and saw a man on the ground being beaten with a club, she said. She started screaming for them to stop and then called 911.
She later went across the street, and one of the men on the ground asked her for something to wipe his face on, she said.
“He was pretty badly leaking,” Wodarz said. “He couldn’t move his legs or back. I’m like, he’s got to be broken. I thought he was going to get murdered.”
Davis said no charges had been filed against anyone Monday as police tried to sort out what happened.
Investigators wanted to talk to the accused robbers for their version of events before filing charges, and had not been able to do so by Monday afternoon, he said.