AVON PARK — Two armed home invasions on Tuesday night have neighbors concerned and deputies searching for at lease three suspects in the crimes. Highlands County Sheriff’s Office officials say it’s probably not the first or second time the thieves have struck in the area.

At 10:58 p.m. Tuesday, sheriff’s deputies were called out to an armed home invasion, according to law enforcement officials. Two men, wearing all black and disguised with masks, broke into a home on North Prospect Avenue in downtown Avon Park. The two suspects fled the scene.

North Prospect Avenue runs between West Main Street and West Pleasant Street.

“While deputies were investigating the first scene, they got another call just minutes later about a second armed home invasion on South Waldron Avenue,” Scott Dressel, public information officer for the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office, said.

The second armed home invasion escalated in terms of suspects and deadly weapons. At the South Waldron Avenue location, three men dressed in black with masks broke into the home while carrying guns. Authorities said one shot was fired, which resulted in a leg injury to one victim. The victim refused medical attention for the non-life threatening injury.

South Waldron Avenue runs between Wilhite Street and West Hal McRae Boulevard.

“We are working on the assumption that the two cases are related because of the close distance and because of the timing,” Dressel said. “All of the victims were Hispanic. They may be targeting victims in some way or it could be a coincidence.”

Law enforcement officials do not feel Tuesday was the first night the suspects have broken into homes while armed.

“We have a feeling there are other victims but they are afraid to come forward,” Dressel said.

Some reasons people don’t report crimes is because they are in the country illegally or might be doing something illegal as well, authorities say.

Anyone who has any information about the cases is asked to call Detective Du’Wayne Kelly at 863-402-7250. A reward could be earned by calling Heartland Crime Stoppers at 1-800- 226- 8477 (TIPS).

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