The Lee County Sheriff's Office is investigating an armed robbery at Gulf Coast Town Center in Estero. Reports show a man was robbed at gun point late Sunday night right outside the Starbucks located feet away from the entrance.
The victim told deputies he went through the coffee shop's drive thru and when he noticed it was closed, he pulled up to one of the parking spaces to throw a bag away. A white man was parked one space over in an older model black Jeep Cherokee. The white man called out to the victim and asked him to go over to his car. When the man walked over, the white man was standing next to his door, pulled up his shirt and showed the handle of a gun as he was demanding money.
The victim gave the white man an undisclosed amount of cash and described him as 5'10, thin build wearing a black hoodie and having a thin black beard.
Tyler Cottar, who frequents the shopping center, tells Four In Your Corner these types of incidents no longer surprise him.
"My answer should be different," he said. "It should surprise me but it doesn't. I hope it doesn't keep happening, it's been a little hectic around here."
Four In Your Corner tried speaking with the property manager to see if there were any measures they can take to prevent incidents like this from going further. A spokesperson declined to go on camera but says despite the large "Gulf Coast Town Center" signs around the property, the Starbucks isn't technically owned by them, meaning it's not part of their problem.
Four In Your Corner attempted to call upper management but we have yet to hear back.
Meanwhile, restaurant owners like Steve Auman say reports of crime at the center and surrounding areas are tarnishing the perception of the popular shopping spot.
"If the community views this as a risky area to come to, they'll probably go elsewhere."
He says, while the Center has much to offer to customers, a bad reputation may really hurt their business.
"Perception is everything," Auman says. "People need to know of Gulf Coast Town Center, the good and the bad."
Four In Your Corner spoke to several business owners off camera who say they would like to see better cameras installed throughout the center and more patrol during the later hours of the night.