Mountain View Voice

News - February 5, 2010

Arrests made in 7-Eleven robbery spree

Police say three men in custody responsible for recent armed robberies, but others remain unsolved

by Kelsey Mesher

Mountain View police have three suspects in custody following a spree of armed robberies of 7-Elevens in the city over the past month, including the latest one Saturday night on Rengstorff Avenue.

However, police say they do not believe the three men are connected with other recent armed robberies in Mountain View at Kragen Auto Parts, Cigarette Express and a check-cashing business.

According to police spokesperson Liz Wylie, investigators worked overnight and into the next day following an armed robbery at the 7-Eleven at 615 S. Rengstorff Ave., which occurred Saturday, Jan. 30 at about 10:45 p.m.

In that incident, two male suspects entered the 7-Eleven, demanding money from the cash register as well as the cell phones and wallets of two customers, according to police reports. The men had one small handgun, and were described as black male adults wearing dark clothing and with their faces covered.

Wylie said a Mountain View officer responding to the robbery located a vehicle with three suspects inside entering Highway 101 from San Antonio Avenue that was of interest.

"It was already a wanted vehicle in regards to a San Mateo robbery," she said, adding that the San Mateo robbery, which occurred Friday, Jan. 29, was similar to the recent crimes in Mountain View.

Wylie said the lone officer followed the vehicle into East Palo Alto while waiting for backup to assist in a car stop. She said the car pulled into a Shell gas station on University Avenue.

"They started to get out to get gas," she said. The officer then "ordered them to stay in the car, which they did until all the other vehicles started arriving." At that point, however, the suspects got back in the car and drove off, Wylie said.

After a short vehicle pursuit, the car crashed near Ikea, and all three suspects fled on foot. Derreck Stamper, 20, of Newark, was quickly apprehended by a police dog which had been traveling with the original officer. Wylie said police recovered the stolen wallets and cell phones from the 7-Eleven in the crashed vehicle.

Despite a lengthy search — involving officers from East Palo Alto, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale and San Mateo as well as the San Mateo County Sheriff's Department and police helicopters from San Jose — the two remaining suspects were not found that night.

Wylie said detectives worked overnight with evidence from the car crash. Although the vehicle wasn't stolen, police were able to use its registration information to develop a lead on a second suspect, Sean Thomas, 19, of Hayward.

Thomas was spotted by Mountain View authorities Sunday morning in Menlo Park, entering a vehicle with three other people. According to Wylie, police followed the vehicle into Mountain View, where they made a car stop at the intersection of North Shoreline Boulevard and Terra Bella Avenue. Thomas was arrested without incident.

Wylie said evidence linking Thomas to the 7-Eleven robbery was recovered from the vehicle, though she could not specify what.

"Then the driver of the vehicle, this random guy who has nothing to with the robbery, happened to have a bunch of cocaine and marijuana packaged for sale," she said. Jesse Housley, 56, of San Francisco, was arrested for three drug-related charges, though neither he nor his vehicle was tied to the 7-Eleven robbery.

It was clear that the other two passengers in the car were not related to the robbery, Wylie said, and they were released.

A final lead

"The investigation continues into the day" on Sunday, Wylie said, "and we now have enough evidence to identify the third suspect." Wylie said she could not specify what type of evidence.

The third suspect, Jamarea Campbell, a 19-year-old resident of Menlo Park, was already on probation in San Mateo County, and was doing community service in San Mateo when he was arrested by local police Sunday afternoon, Wylie said, adding that his probation was set to expire Monday morning at midnight.

With that, police believe they now have in custody the other two suspects who escaped after the car chase Saturday night. All three were booked into the main jail on three counts of robbery, one for each person robbed Saturday. Wylie said Mountain View police have evidence connecting the suspects to two other armed robberies at local 7-Eleven stores, one on Jan. 21 and one on Jan. 26. She added that two small handguns were recovered during the investigation.

She also said that police in Sunnyvale, Belmont and San Mateo have cases they believe are connected with the suspects, and that they, along with the MVPD, will be presenting evidence which could lead to more charges.

As for the remaining unsolved armed robbery cases, Wylie would say only that police are "still working on leads."

E-mail Kelsey Mesher at kmesher@mv-voice.com ?? ?? ?? ??

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