ROCKFORD, Ill. -- Criminals in the Rockford area appear to be stalking and robbing pizza delivery drivers.

According to the Rockford Register Star, police suspect three recent driver assaults are similar enough to indicate a pattern of planned attacks. Victims in each case describe their assailants as three young black men wearing dark clothes and hooded sweatshirts.

"I liken them to hyenas," said David Nippa, a 66-year-old driver for Domino's Pizza, whose window was smashed during a Dec. 27 attack. "They circle around until the antelope is vulnerable, then they go for it."

Andrew Norman, 44, and a driver for Pino's on Main, was lured to a false address on Dec. 26. When he got to the apartment door, the occupant said he hadn't ordered any food.

"I was uncomfortable when I went there because I saw these three guys standing around," Norman said. "If I had just paid attention to my gut, it probably wouldn't have happened."

When Norman returned to his car, the trio he saw earlier jumped him, hit him in the face with the butt of handgun and kicked his ribs until he gave them his money.

"It's the first time this has happened to me," said Norman, a two-year Pino's veteran. "I have heard, though, of similar things going on over the years ... . It's just part of the territory."

Christopher Cheatham, a 30-year-old Pizza Hut delivery driver, said he was followed after making a recent delivery. As he returned to his car, three men jumped him and a scuffle ensued. After he was hit with a blunt object, the would-be robbers ran off empty-handed.

Nippa, the Domino's driver, said he's certain he was followed to the site where three men tried to rob him. As he completed a 10:32 p.m. delivery, three men rushed at his car from across the street.

"They were yelling at me to open up. I didn't," Nippa said. "Then the one started banging on the window with a gun."

Nippa's driver's side window shattered on the third strike with the weapon. With glass flying, Nippa jerked the car into drive and sped off.

"The window just exploded," Nippa said. "I think the guy might have cut himself. It took me a half-second to realize that if I stayed around, I would have been in deep, deep crap."

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