By Bob Uphues
Riverside police say four people forced their way into a Lionel Road home on the afternoon of Feb. 22 and held an elderly couple against their will while they ransacked the house and stole cellphones, cash and other items on the afternoon of Feb. 22.
Neither of the victims, aged 86 and 96, was injured but the couple had been targeted, said police, and at least one of the offenders may have done some handyman work at the house a few months ago.
The offenders fled the scene possibly in a Chevy Traverse with no license plates, the vehicle was last seen heading eastbound on Ogden Avenue. The vehicle then apparently headed south on Harlem Avenue, because police were able to recover a damaged cellphone belonging to one of the victims in the Portage Woods forest preserve along Harlem Avenue in Lyons.
According to police, the male victim said he recognized one of the offenders as someone he had hired to do some tuck-pointing more than two months ago. At that time, people were knocking on doors in the neighborhood soliciting work. There was no bill of sale or written estimate for the work.
All four offenders were described as white males, said police, but the victim could give detailed descriptions of just two. None of the offenders was armed, police said.
One offender was described as about 40 years old, standing 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds. He wore a white surgical mask and had an ID badge around his neck claiming to be with the "electric company."
A second offender was described as being in his 40s, about 5-foot-9 with a "big belly" and weighing about 250 pounds. The other two offenders were described simply as being possibly in their twenties and having short hair.
"This violent home invasion is a rare occurrence in Riverside," said Police Chief Thomas Weitzel in a press release. "We are actively investigating this case and have some leads. I also ask any resident who may have video or information on possible suspects or a more detailed description of the vehicle to contact Riverside police immediately."
According to police, the victims were inside their home at about 3:15 p.m. on Feb. 22 when the doorbell rang. The male victim opened the door, saw it was no one he was expecting and tried to close the door.
The offenders, however, forced their way in. One grabbed the victim by the shirt collar and dragged him across the floor into a bedroom with his wife. One offender stood guard over the couple while the others ransacked the home.
Once the offenders left, the victims were unable to immediately call police, because the offenders took their cellphones, ripped the landline phones from the walls and cut the wires, so victims couldn't call 911.
By the time police arrived, the offenders were gone. In the wake of the home invasion, police have canvassed the neighborhood and have obtained some video evidence in addition to the recovered cellphone, which has been turned over to the Illinois State Police Crime Lab for processing.
Local police have also reached out to surrounding agencies in the south and west suburbs where other, similar incidents have been reported, including in Justice and Lansing.
Anyone with information is asked to call Riverside police at 708-447-2127 or email Detective Sgt. Leo Kotor at firstname.lastname@example.org or Detective James Lazansky at email@example.com.