When Joseph de la Riva walked into an Anaheim Subway store earlier this year, he didn't come hungry for a meatball sandwich. Two teenage girls working behind the counter on the afternoon of March 6 found his behavior odd and joked about him probably wanted to rob the cash register. De la Riva then hopped the counter and took the girls hostage, telling them, "I'm sorry, but I have to do this."
According to a newly released report from the Orange County District Attorney's (OCDA) office, de la Riva, armed with two large kitchen knifes taken from the counter, asked one of the frightened workers for her cellphone. When she turned it over to him, the 33-year-old dialed his uncle. "I'm at the Subway by the house. I have two girls and a knife to their throats," he said. "I'm going to die; they're going to kill me. I don't care if I die!"
(The day before, de la Riva had called his uncle after getting out of jail for a drug-related arrest with a similarly bizarre message: That Anaheim and Tustin police wanted to kill him. Gang members, too.)
Unknown to de la Riva, one of the girls had dialed 911 before slipping the cellphone in her pocket without hanging up. The dispatcher overheard what de la Riva said to his uncle. Within minutes, Anaheim police officer Cory Reinmiller arrived on scene and radioed a robbery in progress. Before ordering the girls to the back, the armed man did take some bread off a tray, eating it without paying.
De la Riva called Anaheim police on one of his hostage's phones. They advised him to drop the knife he admitted to carrying, to no avail. "[I] can't, because I need them to shoot me in the head," he said. Outside the Subway store, Reinmiller blared the same command over his patrol car loudspeaker. Instead of complying, de la Riva took one girl by the neck, holding a knife up to it.
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Fearing for her co-worker's safety, the other girl tried to wrestle his arm down but he overpowered her. De la Riva suffered a bite on his forearm before regaining control. The girls shrieked in terror during the commotion, prompting Sergeant Gonzalez to bust into the Subway with an AR-15 in hand. He fired two times, downing de la Riva without harming his hostages.
After recovering from being in critical condition, de la Riva stood charged with felony counts of kidnapping and aggravated assault. He won't be eating any Subway sandwiches anytime soon after a judge sentenced him last week to eight years in prison.
The OCDA saw no reason to file charges against Anaheim police. "Sergeant Gonzalez carried out his duties as a peace officer in a reasonable and justified manner," the report concludes. "He did not commit a crime, but instead placed himself in danger to rescue the hostages from a significant and credible threat of serious injury or death."
As always, read the report in its entirety online.