There have been six armed robberies in less than six weeks, four of them in the immediate area. So far, no one has been hurt. Last night, at a Quiznos, it happened right at the dinner hour.
"We could see a couple cops and a dog running down the opposite direction," Niki Dinner said.
Dinner was in a neighboring restaurant when she noticed commotion outside Quiznos in Walnut Creek's Citrus Marketplace shopping center. Police were searching for a lone gunman who pulled out a black semi-automatic handgun and cleaned out the cash register.
Wednesday's holdup was just the latest in a string of robberies and attempted robberies at Walnut Creek businesses and fast-food restaurants, including a Panda Express just across the street from Quiznos.
"Hearing of all these robberies in the same kind of area is really disturbing to us," Dinner said.
Last Thursday, a man with a gun and mask tried to pull open the doors at Panda Express at closing time. Guns were also used when a nearby Taco Bell was the object of a takeover robbery last month.
"It looks like there could be some similarities to the robberies that are out in the valley area, the eastern part of the city," Walnut Creek Police Lt. Mark Covington said. "The weapons were displayed and cash was requested. Potentially when criminals are willing to confront people one on one, they're dangerous."
Police do not know if the late November robbery at the Black Bear restaurant on Bancroft is related. There, three masked men used a bat and knife as weapons.
Two retail stores have also been robbed in recent weeks, including Kelly Moore Paints, which now has a security guard outside and the Burberry store at Broadway Plaza.
Jay Hoyer, president of the Walnut Creek Chamber of Commerce, is concerned.
"We should all be more vigilant, whether you're in Walnut Creek or New York City, it's that time of year," he said. "Compounding that is it is a difficult economy out there and there are people a bit more desperate."
Police arrested four Sacramento men in the Burberry robbery. There are no suspects in the other cases and little in the way of description, given the robbers have kept themselves well-covered, including gloves, hats and masks.
Anyone who might have seen the suspect fleeing through the shopping center or who may have information about the case is asked to call Walnut Creek police at (925) 943-5844.