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      Gunpoint robberies leave fireworks stands on alert

      Authorities and fireworks stand operators are on alert following a pair of gunpoint robberies on Christmas Day.

      Three armed men hit a fireworks stand off Old La Blanca Road and another off Sioux Road north of Donna on Tuesday night.

      Valentin Banda works at the stand off Sioux Road.

      He and his family were selling fireworks at the stand when three men walked up.

      Out of nowhere, these young guys step up to the stand and come up walking at gunpoint demanding money, Banda recalled. I didn TMt give them any money, so they took fireworks. My family was here."

      One of the men fired a shotgun in the air as they fled.

      Banda said the ordeal scared him and his family.

      They've worked together at the stand but are now making changes.

      I was scared about my family, man, Banda said. But you know after today, I'm gonna be the only one here. My family's going home. My wife's going home. My little girl's going home. It'll be me and some other guy here. We'll see what happens."

      Deputies believe the same three men robbed the other fireworks stand off Old La Blanca Road just one hour before.

      They made off with the cash box and $40 dollars belonging to one of the clerks.

      Nobody was hurt at either fireworks stand.

      But it's an experience that Banda isn't likely to forget anytime soon.

      I don't trust it anymore, ya know, Banda said. It's kinda dangerous, ya know. They came up to you, put a gun up to you, they point a gun at you demanding money."

      Banda said he hopes that the three suspects can be taken off the streets before they get a chance to do it again.

      "People get a job or something, ya know, Banda said. Instead of stealing around... scaring people."

      Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevio said fireworks stand are targets for robbery each year.

      Sheriff Trevio has investigators trying to learn the identities of the suspects.

      In meantime, deputies are stepping up patrols at fireworks stands between now and New Year TMs Eve.