Here's how officials from various Orange County police agencies say two young Ontario men visiting relatives here got their kicks: robbing marijuana smoke accessory shops at gunpoint.
A dozen armed robberies pinned to Raul Ochoa, 20, and Eric Camacho Gonzalez, 18, also include shoe stores, t-shirt shops, a nail salon and a Metro PCS store–all in Anaheim, Santa Ana or Garden Grove–that were struck.
Meanwhile, a third, unknown male is also suspected of having taken part in the robberies that netted about $7,000 and, in the case of the guy at large, Dodgers-themed clothing.
Police officials from Anaheim, Santa Ana an Garden Grove held a news conference Wednesday afternoon to say Ochoa and Gonzalez are alleged to have struck the businesses on weekends as they visited relatives in Orange County.
The spree started as early as Jan. 31, when The Glass Warehouse at 430 S. State College Blvd., Anaheim, and another smoke shop at 12321 Westminster Ave., Garden Grove, were hit.
February jobs included: Da Spot Smoke Shop & Vapor & Tobacco, 13949 Harbor Blvd., Garden Grove (Feb. 3); Main T (t-shirt shop), 13141 Harbor Blvd., Garden Grove (Feb. 7); Mega Shoe Factory, 2370 S. Harbor Blvd. Anaheim (Feb. 10); Main T Outlet, 208 N. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana (Feb. 10 and 17); Mega Shoe Factory, 2370 S. Harbor Blvd., and Golden Crown Smoke Shop, 1204 S. Brookhurst St., both in Anaheim (and both Feb. 17); and Shoe City, 11971 Brookhurst St., Garden Grove; Agranel Beauty Salon, 910 N. Harbor Blvd.; and Metro PCS store, 1525 W. First St., both in Santa Ana (and all on Feb. 21).
By the way, you read that correctly: the same Santa Ana Main T Outlet got hit twice, one weekend after the other.
The Feb. 17 heist at Golden Crown Smoke Shop in Anaheim turned violent after the store owner opened fire on the robbers and they fired back before fleeing without getting any money, according to Anaheim Police Lt. Tim Schmidt.
The police department spokesman added no one was injured. However, it was that crime that, in Schmidt's words (as reported by City News Service's Paul Anderson), "took it to another level," prompting the Orange County police agencies to compare notes.
Finding the baddies still proved difficult because, as Garden Grove Police Chief Kevin Raney put it, "The suspects went to great lengths to conceal their identities."
The break came after the Metro PCS robbery, which had one employee's phone taken by a robber. The husband of the victim went to police after tracking the phone to the city of Ontario through an application on the device, according to Santa Ana Police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna, that department's spokesman.
That led Santa Ana cops to their Ontario Police counterparts, who helped lead them to Ochoa, a documented gang member in the western San Bernardino County city. Gonzalez was picked up nearby on Feb. 21.
"We couldn't have done it without Ontario," Bertagna said.
Raney expressed relief that two of the three robbery suspects are in custody. As for the third fellow, investigators released surveillance video of the robberies at the news conference in hopes of generating tips about him. Anyone with information can leave tips even anonymously at Orange County Crime Stoppers at (855) TIP-OCCS.