by Denise Civiletti
One of the two men charged in the "strong-arm" robbery on Route 58 early Monday morning is a suspect in the pattern of robberies and assaults victimizing Hispanic men over the past several months, Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller said.
Kenneth Belcher, 46, who police said acting in concert with a Middle Island man, is charged with second-degree robbery in connection with an incident at DMV Plaza early Monday morning. Police said Belcher and Bobby Riddick, 46, forcibly took $300 from a 25-year-old Hispanic man in the DMV Plaza at 2:45 a.m. Monday. See story.
Hegermiller said Belcher has been a suspect in the crimes "for some time." The chief said the investigation remains ongoing but he's not sure whether additional charges will be brought against Belcher.
It comes down to evidence admissible in court to make charges stick, he said. "You've got to prove it."
Hegermiller said police are also investigating whether Riddick is a suspect in the other crimes.
There have been at least eight other assaults in Riverhead this year — all the others in the downtown area. In all but two instances, the victim has been a Hispanic male, walking alone. In all but one incident, the perpetrators have all reportedly been black males. In some cases, sticks or other objects were used to beat victims, according to police reports. In several instances, the attackers robbed the victims.
Riverhead officials in April said they were worried about a "pattern" of attacks, which, at that point, had all occurred near the railroad tracks. (See prior story.) Police subsequently attended the Spanish Mass at St. John the Evangelist Church to provide the Spanish-speaking population with safety information. Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller said local police are coordinating enforcement efforts with state troopers.
Belcher is currently being held in the county jail in lieu of bail in connection with Monday's robbery arrest.
Editor's note: A criminal charge is an accusation. By law, a person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.