Teen seeks help via Facebook as family is held at gunpoint
by Shaka S. Lias
Mar 18, 2011 | 7462 views | 0 0 comments | 33 33 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Nitesh Bhakta shows The Daily Tribune News the loft in his attic where he hid from four assailants as they held family members at gunpoint and searched for valuables. Bahakta was able to notify the Bartow County Sheriff’s Office through a friend he contacted on Facebook. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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Wednesday, 9:25 p.m. The first Facebook post from Nitesh Bhakta read, "SOMEONE PLEASE CALL 911 NO PHONE, HIDING IN MY HOUSE! ROBBERS!" To which a friend replied, "Seriously?"

Shortly after Bhakta posted another status, "HELLLLLLLLP!"

His Facebook friend replied, "Are you joking right now?"

But Bhakta wasn't joking. While he sought help via the social media site, his grandmother and sister were being held at gunpoint downstairs at their Cartersville home.

"I heard screaming," he said. "I opened the (bedroom) door and saw three guys in all black and masks by the front door."

Bhakta had just returned home earlier that day from a spring break trip in Cedartown. A sophomore at the University of Georgia, Bhakta canceled plans to spend the remainder of his break in Savannah.

"I hadn't been home in a while, so I decided to come home," he said.

That decision turned out to be a lifesaver for his family.

After seeing the suspects in his family's foyer, Bhakta locked himself in the room, grabbed his laptop and went to the attic, which is connected to his room and bathroom. Bhakta said he turned off all the lights so the burglars couldn't see him.

"I just climbed up the steps blind, I knew they were going to search the house for everyone else in a matter of minutes," he said of the men.

Bhakta, who mistakenly left his cell phone in Athens, reached out to Facebook for help. His best friend saw his post and took action.

"My first reaction was, 'Are you kidding,'" said John Salter.

Salter said Bhakta does joke around, but after sending several chat messages he knew it was no joke. "After a while I became convinced and immediately called 911," Salter said.

Meanwhile, Bhakta's 65-year-old grandmother, Saraswati Bhakta, and 17-year-old sister were downstairs with the suspects.

Mrs. Bhakta said she was sitting on the couch watching television when a man came up to the back door, breaking it with a fire extinguisher. "Glass went everywhere."

She too saw a man with a mask and called for her granddaughter and grandson.

The man put a gun to her head, and when her granddaughter entered the living room, another man put a gun to the girl's chest, Mrs. Bhakta recalled. The women were instructed to sit down in the living room. Mrs. Bhakta said she and her granddaughter hugged each other until the robbers took them in another room.

"They said lay down right here and don't pick up anything," Mrs. Bhakta recalled.

The suspects began asking for money and gold as they opened drawers and checked other rooms. Mrs. Bhakta said she informed them she had no money or gold.

One of the suspects then took Mrs. Bhakta and put her in a closet inside the kitchen, gagging her mouth with a towel. "I was praying to God. They said don't make a noise," she said.

A white sheet was then thrown over her head so she couldn't see what was happening.

Back in the attic, Bhakta was sending information to his friend who was relaying it to Bartow County dispatchers. As Bhakta and Salter conversed through the chat feature on Facebook, the battery died on the laptop.

By this time officers had arrived on the scene, but Bhakta remained in the attic afraid that one of the suspects may be in his room. "I didn't want to come down until they had the house secure," he said.

One of the robbers was apprehended at the scene, while the other remain at large.

Sheriff Clark Millsap said he's hoping the man in custody will cooperate.

"We're hoping he will see the light and try to identify the others so we can bring them to justice," he said, adding authorities are not sure of his identity because he had several picture identifications on him.

According to an incident report, Wilney Perlaza Ramos, 34, of 7825 Corporate Drive A-138, Houston, Texas, was arrested and charged with armed robbery, intimidation and taking control of a substance.

Investigators were back at the home Thursday afternoon gathering more evidence. Millsap said they gathered all they could at the scene Wednesday night.

What the robbers got away with is unclear. Bhakta said his iPod was stolen and the suspects also took family jewelry, dropping items as they escaped.

As for the victims, Millsap said they were "fortunate to be able to contact a friend on Facebook."

Mrs. Bhakta she thanks God no one was hurt. "I hope nothing like this happens to anyone."

She said she realizes it can happen to anyone.

"Nowadays people don't have a job and they want money so they are stealing, but it's not good," she said. "It's not good."