MARLTON, N.J. (CBS) -- Police in Burlington County are investigating a shocking robbery over the weekend. They said an employee who was closing up a restaurant was maced and tied up before the thief ransacked the register.
"It's scary. It can be scary. You worry. I go home and I worry sometimes you know," Lou Iannicci said.
Scary is how many people CBS Philadelphia spoke with describe Saturday night's brazen robbery at the Mikado Japanese Steak House in Marlton.
Evesham Police said a man wearing a gas mask walked in at around 10:20 p.m. and sprayed a worker with some kind of chemical.
"We think it's more potent than pepper spray. And one of the reasons we believe that is the responding officers had adverse reactions to coming into contact with it," Evesham Police Department Chief Walt Miller said.
Chief Miller said the suspect then tied up the worker and duct taped her mouth before he grabbed what he could out of the register and took off.
The worker was later found by a fellow employee. She was taken to the hospital for treatment and has since been released. Iannicci, who owns Loupy's Crabs in the same strip mall, said he's glad no one was hurt even worse.
"We think of it not just as mace or something with the bear mace, but we think of someone possibly having a heart attack or stroke or something as a result of it. That's the other side of it.," Iannicci said.
But police said this crime is eerily similar to one that happened last Tuesday at a nearby strip mall in Medford. In that case, police said a man in a mask sprayed a man with bear mace and stole his wallet and phone.
"Things are adding up to cause us to believe they're connected, yes," Chief Miller said.
Evesham and Medford police are now looking into the two assaults and released this photo of a car believed to be connected to the first attack.
They're also asking for the public's help and said it's vital they get this guy off the streets as soon as they can.
"It seems like the level of violence is escalating if both are related, and we are concerned that if he's not apprehended, that it's going to escalate and someone's going to get hurt," Chief Miller said.
Evesham Police said they're now increasing patrols around businesses, specifically ones that close later.
If you know anything about these robberies and attacks, you're urged to contact Evesham Police Department at 856-983-1116. They also have a confidential tip line you can contact at 856-983-4699.
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