PS4 midnight release attracts armed robbers

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) The PlayStation 4 was released at midnight Friday, and that brought out the criminal element, according to police.

One customer was robbed and another was nearly robbed shortly after buying the new console.

"For the thieves, that's going to be a hot item for them, as well," Bakersfield Police Sgt. Joe Grubbs told Eyewitness News. "Either for selling, or then 'gifting' it."

A man was robbed around 12:25 a.m. outside Valley Plaza Mall after he bought the new gaming system. Those suspected robbers, 19-year-old Marcus Jenkins and 20-year-old Maurice Boyd, were caught after a short police chase, and the stolen PS4 was found in a nearby apartment.

Officers also found a replica gun in possession of the suspects when they were caught.

Also overnight, two masked men with guns tried to rob a person who had just bought a PS4 at Best Buy. Police didn't say why the robbery attempt failed.

Those robbers, who took off in a white minivan, have not been arrested.

"These were separate cases," Sgt. Grubbs said. "Different vehicles, different cases. They were almost simultaneous." Both happened about 12:30 a.m., just after special sales "launched" the new games.

"It's extra dangerous, if it happens at night," Bakersfield resident Marilyn Blake observed. She worries about shopping when it's dark.

Eyewitness News asked about security during late-night and early-morning sales, like the special game "launches."

At Best Buy, a spokesman didn't comment specifically on late-night security.

"As always we do our very best to try and ensure that our customers and employees shop/work in a safe, secure and happy environment," Best Buy spokesman Jonathan Sandler said in an email statement.

He said the company declined any comment on the Friday morning incident because there's an on-going police investigation.

At Valley Plaza, the PS4 was being sold by the Game Stop. A clerk said they will have more security for the next launch, and that will be the new XBox, which comes out next week.

The Game Stop clerk said they would discuss this with the mall security. Eyewitness News called Valley Plaza administration, but we haven't heard back yet.

The Game Stop clerk said only one of the main mall doors was open during the special sale for the game console. She said workers didn't see details of the robbery, it happened in the parking lot.

"It's kind of pathetic," shopper Cassandra Vasquez said. "I mean, it's just a game." But, the Game Stop clerk says the new PS4 is going for $399.99, so it's valuable game.

Sgt. Grubbs says shoppers should take precautions.

"You need to be aware of your surroundings," he advises. "Put their packages in the trunk if they're going to leave them."

Shoppers also have some advice.

"You always have your key ready," Marilyn Blake says. "Don't fumble around, you're conscious of what's around you." When it's dark, walk and park in well-lit areas.

But, special product sales aren't the only time shoppers find themselves in the dark. For many, the holiday season kicks off with early-morning "Black Friday" sales.

Cassandra Vasquez takes more precautions for a couple reasons.

"It's a perfect time to be stealing stuff, because everybody's also Christmas shopping and getting a bunch of gifts together," she says.

Grubbs says during the holidays thefts, burglaries and robberies go up. He said BPD patrols will increase during "business hours" at the main shopping centers.

Another suggestion from shoppers and police is for people to head back out to their cars in a group. And Grubbs says that's a good idea even in situations like special sales of new video games.

"Maybe even if there's somebody you don't know that's buying one also, say -- Hey, would you mind walking out in the parking lot with me?"