---- — LAWRENCE -- Three men caught last night when they barricaded themselves inside a South Union Street convenience store they were trying to rob are suspects in as many as a half dozen other Lawrence robberies this month alone.
Two of the men have already been charged in one of those other robberies.
The three men tried to shoot their way out of a locked back door but failed and surrendered when police surrounded the South Union Market at 280 S. Union Street.
Two of the men were charged with a Jan. 9 robbery on Shawsheen Road, Police Chief John Romero said.
"And this whole group is suspected in as many as a half dozen robberies in the last month, including one in which a man was shot in the leg.
"They're all punks, 18 and 19 years old," Romero said.
Those arrested last night were identified as:
Michael Alicea, 19, 59 W. Laurel St.
Richard Mora, 18, of Lawrence, no street address given.
Ruben Saldana, 18, 309 Prospect St.
They are charged with robbery while armed and masked, kidnapping, unlawful possession of a firearm, discharge of a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling and unlawful possession of ammunition.
The kidnapping charge relates to the seizure and manhandling of an employe at the South Union Market who was found inside a freezer at the store after the men surrendered.
Romero said police found one weapon, which he described as a .22-calibre machine gun, and are looking for another.
He said police are also looking for a suspected getaway driver who was seen pulling away from the scene in a maroon, four-door, American-made car, possibly an Oldsmobile, as police arrived.
Romero said Alicea and Mora have also been charged in the Shawsheen Road robbery on Jan. 9, when a man was robbed of $300 when he arranged through Facebook to meet someone to buy an iPhone.
Romero said the three men arrested last night and their getaway driver are also suspected in "five or six" other holdups, including one on Jan. 10 at the Kailey Market at 324 Prospect St.
Police said four armed men stormed into the store about 9:15 p.m. wearing Halloween masks, one of them a "Joker" mask.
A man in the store was knocked to the ground and shot in the leg.
Witnesses said one of the men carried a red golf bag with what appeared to be a shotgun sticking out of it; another had a rifle; and two had handguns.
Four shots were fired after they fled with an undisclosed amount of cash.
"This is a very active investigation, and these are dangerous people.," Romero said.