Police have arrested a suspect in a violent robbery that left a Connecticut pastor unconscious when he tried to buy a cellphone outside his Hartford church through Craigslist and said social media helped catch the man.
Raheem Rankine, 20, of East Hartford, is facing a first-degree robbery charge in the incident. Police said the pastor's daughter saw a picture of Rankine on Facebook and recognized him as the man who had robbed her father.
Pastor Louis Borges, 54, sustained minor injuries during the "crooked Craigslist transaction" outside his church, Assembleia De Deus, at 106 New Park Avenue, around 4:30 p.m. Oct. 10, police said.
Borges responded to a Craiglist post advertising the sale of a $400 cell phone he wanted to buy and agreed to meet a man in front the church where he serves as head pastor for the Brazilian congregation. He brought his adult daughter and teenage son with him for the transaction.
The seller met Borges on the sidewalk and when the pastor turned over the money, a second man came up and punched him in the head, according to police. Both suspects ran off with the money and phone. Witnesses reported the suspects fled the area in a gray Chrysler Sebring.
When police arrived, they found the pastor on the ground, disoriented. He was transported to Hartford Hospital and treated for minor injuries.
The pastor's daughter took a photo of Rankine before he got away, police said. She later found someone matching Rankine's description on Facebook. Police said they discovered Rankine was wearing the same sweatshirt in his Facebook picture that he was wearing in the photo the pastor's daughter took.
"When you commit a Craigslist robbery and pose for a pic, it helps if you wear the same shirt on Facebook. #evidence," Hartford Deputy Police Chief Brian Foley tweeted, with the two photos side by side.
On Oct. 17, Hartford detectives in the Hartford/U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force learned Rankine was hiding in a house at 22 Belden Street in East Hartford, police said. Shooting task force detectives monitored the home and spotted him inside the home through a window. East Hartford police helped them enter the home and take Rankine into custody.
Another pastor at Borges' church said he believes the incident is isolated.
Borges' son, who was with him when he was attacked, told NBC Connecticut his father is on the mend but that it's a slow process.
"For him, prayers really help and for us too, growing up with that belief in our head," Luis Peter Borges said. "Thank you to all the people that's out there praying for him."
Major crimes detectives brought Rankine to the Hartford police station.
Police warn others to beware of fake listings on Craiglist, and meeting people in person for these social media transactions. Foley said the best place to conduct this type of business is in the police headquarters parking lot. They’ve designated it as a safe zone for all social media transactions.
It's unknown whether Rankine has an attorney. His bond was set at $75,000 and he is scheduled to appear in court on Monday.
A second suspect is still at large and is described as a man weighing 140-160 pounds and wearing a black hooded sweatshirt, black sneakers and black sweatpants. Police said they expect to make additional arrests.
Investigators ask anyone with information to contact Hartford police.