Robobaldo Sanchez Arrested for Macing, Beating Store Clerk Into Coma With Hammer

On Sunday, Little Havana store owner Cen Yue Kui was behind the counter, ringing up a customer for a gallon of milk. Then, without warning, the "customer" sprayed Kui's eyes with pepper spray, leapt over the counter, and beat him viciously with a hammer -- all so he could run off with a couple of cartons of cigarettes.

Miami police now say they've caught the man behind the brutal attack: 50-year-old Robobaldo "Johnny" Sanchez, a Swastika-tattooed charmer found late last night with the looted cigs and a lotion bottle full of pepper spray.

The police's description of Sunday's attack -- which was caught on video surveillance camera -- is hard to stomach.

They say Sanchez entered Kui's store just after noon Sunday and took two gallons of milk to the counter. While Kui bagged them, Sanchez took out a lotion bottle filled with pepper spray and squirted it in Kui's eyes.

While the clerk writhed in pain on the floor, Sanchez beat him in the head with a hammer.

"Kui attempted to shield himself with his arms and retreat," police write in Sanchez's arrest report, but Sanchez "forcibly confined the victim between the wall and the counter in order to inflict bodily harm."

Sanchez grabbed two cartons of cigarettes and left the bleeding Kui on the floor.

Yesterday, police matched prints on another carton at the store to Sanchez -- a Cuba-born homeless man who lists a Coral Gables parking lot as his home address on the police report.

Around 3:30 in the afternoon, they spotted Sanchez near SW 33rd Avenue and Calle Ocho. Not only was he wearing the same clothes he'd been wearing during the filmed attack, but he also had two cartons of cigarettes and the bottle of pepper spray.

Asked about it, Sanchez -- who has a Swastika tattoo on one arm and ink reading "CIA" on the other -- admitted "it was used to blind people."

Sanchez faces charges of armed burglary, armed robbery, false imprisonment, and attempted first-degree murder. 

Kui, meanwhile, remains in a coma and on "full life support," police say.

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink