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Two Grand Forks homes robbed at gunpoint

GRAND FORKS - In quick succession Thursday, armed robbers struck the south Grand Forks homes of two Asian families that own nail salons in town.

"This wasn't a random act of home invasion where they just saw an opportunity and went. I think this was obviously preplanned and systematically executed out," said Lt. Grant Schiller of the Grand Forks Police Department.

The first call came at 11:46 a.m. from a home on the 1300 block of South 40th Street. Schiller said a resident opened the door after a man knocked.

"The individual brandished a gun, forced his way into the door. A second male came in, and they proceeded to then rob this person's residence," he said. "They were in and out pretty quick."

The resident reported that possibly three, but certainly two, men entered the home. They were Asian and spoke a South Vietnamese dialect, the resident told police.

Fifteen minutes after the first call, police were dispatched to another home, about a mile away, on the 3100 block of 24th Avenue South. A victim there recounted an incident similar to the first, but said both men had handguns and were Hispanic.

Despite the varied descriptions, police believe the robberies are linked.

"It's highly coincidental that they'd be isolated," Schiller said.

Based on the proximity in time and place of the robberies, the methods of the robbers and the similar victims, investigators think the intruders targeted the two homes, Schiller said.

During both robberies, the thieves restricted the movements of those in the homes -- including two women at the first home; and a man, a grandmother and three children at the second. Police said no one was hurt.

"They claim they're OK," Schiller said. "A little shaken up -- obviously scared."

Police would not say specifically what the robbers took.

At the first robbery, one suspect was described as a 5-foot-6 Asian male with black hair in his mid-30s, wearing a black baseball cap. At the second, two suspects were described as possibly Hispanic wearing black clothing, black baseball caps and sunglasses.

Schiller said investigators searched the homes for evidence. Officers also canvassed the area and interviewed neighbors, he said.

The men were possibly driving a white Toyota Scion with Minnesota plates. As of Thursday evening, they remained at large.

Police ask that anyone with information about the robberies call the department at (701) 787-8000.