MANATEE -- Shortly after 5:30 a.m. Friday, David Frishman drove up to Samoset Grocery and Meat Market, the business he co-owns at 3011 15th St. E., Bradenton.
Manatee County Sheriff's Office vehicles were spread across the entire parking lot, the 44-year-old Bradenton resident recalled. Deputies had guns drawn.
"I thought I was coming into a hostage situation," Frishman said as he sat in his narrow office Monday afternoon.
Just 15 minutes prior at 5:20 a.m., the store was robbed by three masked gunmen. According to the sheriff's office, three employees who had arrived to work were confronted by suspects demanding money. The gunmen, who covered their faces with shirts, took an undisclosed amount of money and left.
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"They were very shaken up," Frishman said of his employees, adding they were forced into the women's restroom by the gunmen. "They were distraught."
No arrests have been made in connection to the robbery, one of several reported business robberies in recent weeks.
Less than a mile from Samoset Grocery and Meat Market last Tuesday night, two male suspects used a firearm to rob people leaving Noreen's Deli at 616 30th Ave. E., Bradenton. Deputies said the suspects received an undisclosed amount of cash and a firearm and left the store without injuring the victims.
A woman who identified herself as a co-owner of Noreen's Deli, but asked her name not be published for safety reasons, said she was frustrated by the recent robbery. She said it took law enforcement 16 minutes to help.
The sheriff's office said it only took 1 to 2 minutes for deputies to arrive.
"I'm not really happy at all. I could get killed. My brother could get killed," the woman said. "I am glad it's over. I'm glad I was alive."
Another robbery took place at 2:20 a.m. April 17 when four masked robbers pistol-whipped and stole money from a bartender at Bubba's Too, 5435 15th St. E., Bradenton.
Three days later, at 11:25 p.m. April 20, four suspects entered Dolphin Lounge, 2608 Ninth St. W., Bradenton, and forced the bartender and lone patron to the ground at gunpoint before fleeing with money and a purse. Someone from Bubba's Too could not be reached for a comment, and a man who answered the Dolphin Lounge's business phone declined comment.
Sheriff's Office spokesman Dave Bristow said it hasn't been determined whether the suspects are the same across the recent incidents.
"We just don't know," he said. "Certainly there are some similarities, but we can't say they are being committed by the same people."
After the robbery at Samoset Grocery, Frishman said he put in a request for increased patrol presence in the area from 5 to 8 a.m., when it's still dark out.
"I would like to see more deputies in the area until these guys are caught," he said. "Everybody's on edge. All the businesses here in this area are on edge right now, I can tell you."
Bristow said the sheriff's office responds right away in cases such as this.
"It's not like we have more people out here," the spokesman said. "We only have the people that we have."
When someone puts in a patrol request for a certain area, Bristow said, deputies working the shift are instructed to frequent the area more often.
Frishman said he and his employees are trying to restore some sense of normalcy since last week's incident. He's implemented different policies in the business for those opening up. The three employees who were victimized have since returned to work.
Frishman said he knows law enforcement officials are doing the best they can.
"They're under a whole new microscope with all these incidents in Baltimore and all these other things, too," he said. "I'm just hoping they can catch these guys and provide some security to the area."
Anyone with information on any of the cases can call the Manatee County Sheriff's Office at 941-747-3011 or Crime Stoppers at 866-634-TIPS.
Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.