Landscaper robbed of lawn equipment in Central Gardens

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Until Thursday, landscaper Manuel Rivera-Betancourt had never been robbed. He certainly wasn’t expecting it to happen on a street lined with mansions in broad daylight with cars whizzing by — but that’s exactly what he says happened.

Rivera-Betancourt’s son translated his story. He said he and six other men were at a home on South McLean near Central Avenue trimming trees around 12 p.m.

As soon as he was alone, he told police two men pulled up behind him in a silver Chevrolet Malibu and one of them flashed a gun.

“He, like, lift his shirt up like he was gonna take out a gun at him,” Rivera-Betancourt’s son relates.

The suspects took four leaf blowers and two hedge clippers from the back of the landscaping truck. They left Rivera-Betancourt unharmed.

“He thought about his family and he was afraid, so he just, like, stood up and just let them take the equipment,” said his son.

As the robbery was happening, Mia Henley, the woman who hired Rivera-Betancourt and his crew, just happened to be glancing out the window. She said she saw the suspects but didn’t realize what they were doing.

“I didn’t know all of them and I thought, perhaps they were with the crew,” Henley said.

This is at least the second armed robbery in Central Gardens this week. Sunday, a woman’s dog was grazed by a bullet during an unsuccessful attempt to steal earbuds.

Thursday’s crime had Rivera-Betancourt too afraid to return to work Friday.

“Now he’s afraid every time he goes out,” his son said.

Central Gardens Association President Mark Fleischer tells WREG the neighborhood has gotten a second security patrol in the last few months. They also plan to discuss some of the recent crime concerns at their meeting on Wednesday.

They’re crimes that homeowners say won’t be tolerated.

“People shouldn’t have to be afraid at work that someone’s gonna walk up and show a gun and threaten their life,” said Henley.

No detailed descriptions of the suspects have been released.

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