Special needs employees robbed at gunpoint

FRESNO, Calif.

Atwater police said the crooks used a gun to steal several hundred dollars from the Kings View Recycling Center.

Kings View Behavioral Health System operates the recycling center. The shop offers work experience and job placement for people with developmental and other disabilities. The company said the crooks not only stole money but their client's sense of safety.

Employees at the recycling center said four people were inside the office when the men barged in with a gun and demanded money Monday morning.

"We had two of our clients and two of our staff, [they were] very shaken up, they had been robbed at gunpoint," said the program's executive director Sam Kalember.

The clients Kalember is referring to are employed there in a work experience program for people with disabilities.

"It's a brand new program of us, we're just getting it started and it actually employs 20 people with disabilities," he said. "So it was worse than just a robbery."

Kalember said during the robbery a staff member spotted the crooks and called for help. "She actually noticed that something odd was happening," he said. "She went out a side door and called 911 while they were still there."

Police told Action News the robbers took a bag of cash, but left some evidence behind.

"They took the clerk's cell phone and as they fled the scene, apparently they dropped the cell phone outside the crime scene," said Atwater police Sgt. Sammy Joseph.

Investigators are now working to pull fingerprints from the phone. Detectives said the men who stole from the shop in Atwater also robbed a recycling center in Merced.

Police said around 9 am the thieves pointed a gun at an employee's head and demanded cash. In both cases no one was physically injured, but the victims were left frightened.

Kings Views said it's providing counseling to its clients and employees tomorrow -- to help them work through their emotions.

As for the investigation, both the Merced and Atwater police departments said the armed men they are looking for may be linked to other crimes.

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