FREMONT, Calif. - Padmanabha Kotareddy, 84, is recovering after he was robbed of his gold jewelry Wednesday while out for a morning walk in Fremont.
Police said he is one of four victims thieves stole from in a series of jewelry snatching robberies in the past two weeks. Most of the victims are elderly. The oldest victim is 96 years old.
Police said it is unclear if it is the same suspects in all four cases. The thieves only stole gold jewelry.
"This chain they wanted to remove," said Kotareddy. "I caught it."
Kotareddy described the terrifying theft when a man in an SUV approached him for directions, pulled down his window, grabbed his necklace, and drove off dragging him.
"I’m moving and hanging on the door," said Kotareddy. "The car was running already."
Kotareddy said it happened just after 10 a.m. Wednesday. He was returning home from a walk in Fremont’s Mission San Jose neighborhood. The driver asked him to look at a map on his phone.
"Meanwhile he grabbed my jacket collar and pulled me," said Kotareddy. "Help me help me but nobody was helping."
He said it happened in less than a minute. His ribs now hurt and he has scrapes on his hand.
"We have lived here for almost 21 years," said Kotareddy’s daughter Nirmala Anisetti. "We’ve been at this house and we have not heard this sort of thing happen."
Fremont Police said similar robberies happened on May 21 when thieves stole from a 96-year-old on Kansas and Ursa Drive. A 79-year-old was robbed on Jamestown Road.
Last Wednesday, a 48-year-old was robbed on McKay Street and then there was Kotareddy’s theft on Olive Avenue.
"One of our victims was in front of their home doing stuff with their vehicle when they were approached," said Fremont Police Spokeswoman Yanneth Contrada.
Fremont police said the thefts are happening between 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. The suspects are also luring people by claiming it's their birthday.
"'Oh it’s my birthday but I want to give a gift to you' and then they bring out some costume jewelry and start getting closer to the victims where they are able to swap out the victims’ real jewelry," said Contrada.
"It’s quite unnerving to hear incidents like this happening," said Amit Rawlani of Fremont.
All four victims were alone. Kotareddy said he concealed his jewelry. His family is warning others to keep their distance from people you don’t know. They said two children were in the suspect’s car.
"You assume it's a family and they genuinely needed some help but if you can't really trust that, who can you really trust," said Anisetti.
Police said the descriptions on the suspects vary. They’re asking the community for any home surveillance video so they can identify them.
Azenith Smith is a reporter for KTVU. Email Azenith at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @AzenithKTVU or Facebook or ktvu.com.