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It’s 4:30 a.m., Monday, June 1. You’re on Dagsworthy Street in Dewey Beach, where a welcome early-morning bay breeze mixes the stagnant air. Two men approach, one wearing a black hoodie, the other wearing a beige hoodie with “Concord” embroidered on the front.
You’re about to become one of two armed robberies in Dewey Beach in one week.
The police report describes them as two black males between the ages of 17 and 23. They ask if you want to buy some crack. When you refuse, Concord pulls a black semiautomatic handgun.
“Do you want to die tonight?” he asks.
Initially, you refuse. Maybe the beer gives you a gust of ill-advised bravery. Maybe you’re simply too stunned to respond. That’s why Concord asks, “Why don’t you give me your money?”
You hand over your wallet. They fleece you for $70. Then they tell you to run. You run faster than you’ve ever run in your life, blood pounding in your temples, your calves already starting to burn. You hear their sneakers slapping the road behind you. You run faster. You run for one block, two –then nothing. They’re gone.
“We don’t get too many armed robberies,” said Dewey Beach Police Sgt. Cliff Dempsey. He said many crimes like this are opportunistic, preferring isolated targets on dark streets. While Dempsey said Dewey police have a few leads, he said the victim’s recollection was sketchy.
At 3:45 a.m. on Monday, June 7, a Wilmington, Del. man flagged down a seasonal officer. Three guys just pummeled his friend, he said, emptying his wallet, busting his lip and possibly concussing him.
Dewey Beach police had their hands full, processing sixteen junebugs arrested on a gamut of petty possession charges. But they dispatched a few officers and an ambulance to 26 Rodney, where a man lay dazed and bleeding, robbed for $200, missing his gold necklace and indeed concussed.
The friends, 26 and 25 years old, entered 26c Rodney earlier in the evening, where five girls were celebrating their recent graduation from St. Mark’s High School in Wilmington, Del. They noticed three guys they didn’t know – two in white tee shirts, one in red. Eventually, one of the friends decided to crash in his car. The other lingered, and when things began to wind down, he hungered for a smoke. Back at his car, his friend was reclined and comatose; his cigarettes, however, were gone.
Walking back upstairs, he asked the three unknowns where his cigarettes were, drawing blank stares in response. Figuring they swiped his smokes, he gives the house a cursory scan. When he returned to the living room the trio was gone. They were outside, dragging his friend out of his car, beating him with their fists, kicking him with their sneakers.
He yells at them to stop, but doesn’t intervene. One of them glances over his shoulder.
“I got a burner,” he said. “Give me your fucking money.”
They searched him, emptying his pockets, taking each of the four dollar bills in his wallet before splitting.
Dewey police set up a perimeter, snagging the two whiteshirts on the duneline at Read Street. Michael Albanese, 28 of Newark, Del., and Brandon Knightly, 20, also of Newark, were charged with two counts of robbery, two counts of conspiracy in the first degree, and a smattering of misdemeanor charges. The gold necklace was cunningly stashed in one of their sneakers. They were committed to Sussex Correctional Institute, with a cash bond set at $90,000.
Dempsey spoke slowly, his voice fringed with exhaustion. He had been up for more than 24 hours.
“Long week, huh?” I asked.
“Yeah, long week.” he said, managing a small laugh. He excused himself – he had a tee-ball game to coach that night.