A man was shot, another beaten and other victims left stripped of their clothing during a string of armed robberies in Atlanta that started as hookups for sex on Grindr.
Atlanta police went public on Wednesday with the increasingly violent incidents – eight since Feb. 4 – to warn users of the popular gay app and to ask for the public’s help in identifying the men using Grindr to target their victims.
“We have had eight instances where male victims were lured to a remote location by the use of the Grindr app,” Sgt. Rodney Jones said during a press conference (watch below). “The suspect will use the Grindr app to exchange and identify victims and try to lure them to a dating location. After the date concludes, the suspect will then rob the victim often taking wallets, keys or even vehicles.”
“We want to ask the public for any assistance or any victim who has been previously victimized to contact the Atlanta police robbery unit. If you have any other information that can assist with the investigation or wish to remain anonymous, please contact Crime Stoppers,” he added.
The armed robberies occurred in two general clusters – four along Hollywood and Hightower roads near Hollywood Cemetery in northwest Atlanta and three in southeast Atlanta near Stonewall Drive and Rebel Valley Park. An eighth incident – on April 14 when a man was shot in the leg – took place at the victim’s residence, which was not identified by police.
Most of the incidents unfolded in public spaces after the suspect lured his victims there. In three instances, the assailant ordered the victim to strip naked or down to his underwear before being robbed. The victims range in age from 20 to 59.
Seven of the victims’ cars were stolen. The suspect tried to steal the eighth vehicle but crashed into a mailbox and fled on foot after shooting the vehicle owner. That incident was the only one in which the suspect and the victim had sex. In the other seven robberies, the suspects robbed the victims without any sex taking place, according to police.
“His match told him to get on his knees so that he could perform the sexual act that he intended to do,” according to an Atlanta police incident report describing an armed robbery on April 27. “While on his knees, his match pulled out an all black 9mm gun and instructed [the victim] to get naked. [The victim] took his clothes off and gave the young male all of his belongings.”
One or more assailants
In two of the incidents, the victims were robbed at gunpoint by a group of four men that appeared after a fifth man guided the victims away from their vehicles.
On April 28, a 23-year-old man was robbed at gunpoint when he followed a man he met on Grindr to a basketball court at an apartment complex on Constitution Road not far from Moreland Avenue. Four men joined the fifth suspect and beat the victim in the face.
“[The victim] received a swollen right eye from the strikes but refused medical attention,” according to the incident report.
A day later, a 59-year-old man arrived at Rebel Valley Park off Stonewall Drive about 12:40 a.m. to meet a man from Grindr. Four masked men surrounded him once he walked into the park, and one pointed a gun as they robbed him. The victim’s phone was traced to the same Constitution Road apartment complex that was the site of the April 28 attack.
Police said they are searching for one suspect in the robberies in northwest Atlanta – a Black man in his early 20s with a slim build about 6-feet tall with hair in 3-inch to 4-inch twists or dreads – and a group of suspects in the robberies in southeast Atlanta.
“The person is talking to them and takes them off the app where they will try to have regular conversation through text messages, and then at that time they will just schedule a date as if you were meeting somebody for the first time. Then they’ll go ahead and rob that person after the date concludes,” Jones said.
The incidents started on Feb. 4, and the latest took place on Sunday. In that incident, a 36-year-old man was robbed at gunpoint after spending hours with the suspect watching a movie. As the victim was returning the man to his apartment on Perry Road, the suspect convinced him to stop at Hollywood Cemetery off Hollywood Road in northwest Atlanta. That’s the location of two of the other armed robberies.
“[The suspect] asked him to stop by the graveyard to take pictures by his aunt’s grave,” according to the incident report.
As the men walked back to the victim’s car, the suspect pushed a gun into the man’s back. He stole the man’s car, wallet and phone.
‘Listen to your inner voice’
Officer Eric King, one of two LGBTQ liaisons for Atlanta police, urged users of social networking apps to notify a trusted friend before any rendezvous, meet in a public place and “listen to your inner voice.”
“If they give you a location of a cemetery or someplace you don’t know, take that as a sign. Get a physical address. Get a name. Ask your friends if they’ve seen this person before,” King said.
“We’ve all been catfished. It’s not something that is a new area, but we definitely don’t want people to continue to be victimized routinely by a person or group of individuals,” he added.
King also urged caution.
“We definitely want people to continue to live their life but be a little more cautious,” he said.
“We would like to encourage anyone that has any information about these crimes to come forward,” Major D’Andrea Price said. “We treat everybody with dignity, and we just want to stop these crimes that have been done to our sometimes vulnerable population for the City of Atlanta.”
Atlanta police saw a similar spree of violent robberies in 2015 when a man targeted men interested in sex through the app Jack’d. In 2016, three men used Grindr to lure a Union City man to a trailer park in Fayette County where they kidnapped, beat and stabbed him to death.
‘Give me everything you have’
Details of the eight recent armed robberies as gathered from incident reports provided by the Atlanta Police Department:
A 36-year-old man said he was robbed between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. by a man he met on Grindr. The two agreed to met for sex near an apartment complex on Hollywood Road in northwest Atlanta. When the man arrived, the suspect got inside his 2011 Nissan Altima and pulled a black handgun. The suspect told the man to drive to another apartment complex on Maner Terrace in Cobb County. When they arrived, the suspect ordered the man out of the car and to remove all of his clothes. The man took his phone and wallet and drove away in the victim’s car.
A 26-year-old man told police that he was robbed and his 2016 Toyota Camry was stolen by a man he met on Grindr for a “quick hookup.” Shortly before 11 p.m., the man picked up the suspect at the leasing office of an apartment complex and drove them to a parking lot on Hightower Road, which is in the Carey Park neighborhood in northwest Atlanta. The men kissed in the victim’s car before they stepped out to have sex. When they did, the suspect brandished a black gun and said, “give him the car and everything he got. The suspect jumped into the car and left, leaving the victim barefooted and in his underwear.
A 32-year-old was shot and robbed after he having sex with a man he met on Grindr sometime after 10 a.m. The man was shot in the right leg and taken to Grady Hospital. The victim said he invited the man to his home after they met online. After the two had sex, the suspect took the key fob for the victim’s 2016 Mercedes GLE 350 SUV and tried to drive away. The victim followed the man outside and asked him to get out of the vehicle. The suspect backed into a mailbox and pleaded with the victim to not call the police. The man then grabbed the victim’s phone and shot him. He then fled on foot with the victim’s phone and key fob. The location of the shooting was redacted from the police report.
A 29-year-old man was robbed in Rebel Valley Park off Stonewall Drive about 2:30 a.m. after he arrived to meet a man for sex. The victim works near the park and met the suspect on Grindr. The man tapped on the window of the victim’s car with a gun and ordered him out of his 2020 Dodge Journey. The suspect then left in the man’s car, taking both his phones. The man called police using a phone he borrowed from a resident near the park.
A 20-year-old Uber Eats driver on a break met a man on Hollywood Road in northwest Atlanta after the two met on Grindr. The suspect told the man to meet him nearby at Hollywood Cemetery. “His match told him to get on his knees so that he could perform the sexual act that he intended to do. While on his knees his match pulled out an all black 9 mm gun and instructed [the victim] to get naked. [The victim] took his clothes off and gave the young male all of his belongings.” The man threatened to shoot the victim, who fled in the man’s 2020 Nissan Altima with his phone and wallet. “[The victim] ran to the nearest convenience story and asked for some clothes and to use the phone to call 911.” The man’s car and wallet were found nearby on Hollywood Road but the phone was gone.
A 23-year-old man was robbed at gunpoint and beaten by five men after agreeing to meet one of the men on Grindr. When the man arrived at an apartment complex on Constitution Road near Moreland Avenue in southwest Atlanta, the suspect guided the victim to a nearby basketball court. That’s when four other men appeared and beat the victim in the face. One of the men pointed a small silver handgun and stole the man’s 2017 Toyota Camry, phone, Apple Watch and wallet. “[The victim] received a swollen right eye from the strikes but refused medical attention.”
Four masked men surrounded a 59-year-old man in Rebel Valley Park off Stonewall Drive after he arrived about 12:40 a.m. to meet a man he chatted with on Grindr. The suspect guided the victim into the park where the other men appeared and one pointed a black handgun. The men stole the victim’s phone and wallet and fled in his 2014 Mercedes CLS. The man traced his phone to an apartment complex on Constitution Road.
A 36-year-old man was robbed at gunpoint in Hollywood Cemetery off Hollywood Road in northwest Atlanta by a man he spent several hours with after meeting on Grindr. The victim picked up the suspect from an apartment complex on Perry Road and they returned to the man’s home. They watched a movie and spent several hours together. As the victim drove the man back to the apartments, he asked to stop at the cemetery. “[The suspect] asked him to stop by the graveyard to take pictures by his aunt’s grave.” After the pictures were taken, the suspect pulled a gun and pushed it into the victim’s back and said, “give me everything you have.” The suspect gave the man the keys to his Kia, wallet and phone. The suspect left in the man’s car.