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Seaside teens with gang ties suspected in P.G. crime spree

By MARY BROWNFIELD

Published: October 29, 2010

AFTER THREE suspected car burglars ditched their Chevy Blazer in the middle of a Pacific Grove street and ran from the officer who had been chasing them early Sunday morning, police found one of them hiding between two parked cars in Pacific Grove, the second walking on the recreation trail, and the third in his Seaside apartment, PGPD Cmdr. John Nyunt said Wednesday. The teenagers were arrested and taken to Monterey County Jail on numerous felony charges of possession of stolen property.

Officers are still searching for victims of the widespread burglaries and thefts, which involved dozens of cars that were ransacked for valuables that could be quickly fenced, according to Nyunt. Most occurred in the western area of the city, near the Methodist Church on Sunset, around Washington Park and near the ballpark at Pico and 17 Mile Drive.

“We elicited some kind of cooperation from one of the suspects that led us to believe we potentially had 30 victims, and Monterey also had victims,” he said. “These individuals were checking for unlocked vehicles.” Nyunt estimated they looked at about 200 cars.

The men’s contact with police began when Pacific Grove officer Ryan Anderson noticed a white 1990s Chevy Blazer driving erratically on eastbound Lighthouse Avenue in the downtown area shortly before 4 a.m. Oct. 24. Intending to stop the SUV, Anderson activated his lights and siren, but the driver decided to flee and turned up First Street.

“The guy tried to floor it, and it’s a $500 car, OK? It’s not really going to move that quickly,” Nyunt said. “So they decided to bail.”

But when the three men jumped out of the Chevy, it began to roll backward. Rather than chase after the suspects, Anderson had to block the SUV with his patrol car to keep it from hitting nearby parked vehicles.

When police looked inside the Blazer, they found a dozen GPS devices like Garmins and Magellans, about a dozen vehicle cell-phone chargers, several cameras and cell phones, and numerous other stolen items. At least one object found in the Blazer had been reported stolen from a car in P.G. earlier, according to police.

While searching the area at around 4:45 a.m., Anderson and P.G. Sgt. Jose Figueroa spotted and arrested the first of the three — 18-year-old Manuel Rodriguez-Hernandez of Seaside — who was hiding between two parked cars near Laurel Avenue and First Street.

Less than two hours later, Monterey P.D. officer Sean Calvert detained a man walking on the recreation trail near Hutton Street who matched the description of one of the suspects. P.G. officers went to the scene and positively identified 18-year-old Seaside resident Francis Geovanni Ruiz-Perez as the registered owner and driver of the Chevy.

Using items found in the Blazer — including the suspect’s identification — officers discovered the third culprit was 19-year-old Julio Cesar Rodriguez, according to Nyunt, and they arrested him in his Hilby Street apartment late in the afternoon.

All three men were arrested without further resistance and were taken to Monterey County Jail on felony charges of possession of stolen property. The driver was also arrested for flight from a police officer with disregard for the safety of people and property, due to his recklessly abandoning the Chevy in the middle of the street.

Nyunt said the suspects appear to be affiliated with the Norteño gang, due to a T-shirt one was wearing and a five-point star tattooed on another. The shirt, which Rodriguez was wearing inside out, bore the word, “Norteño,” and listed all the area codes in which the gang has a presence. (Nyunt said gang members intentionally wear their shirts inside-out and then lift them to show their affiliation to others.)

“They can be pretty bold,” Nyunt observed.

Police are focusing on identifying victims and completing the lengthy investigation of the men’s alleged crimes. Nyunt said anyone who has been a victim should call the department at (831) 648-3143 and arrange to identify what was stolen.

“Most of what we have is from the recent burglaries over the weekend,” he said. “They have admitted to other thefts in other jurisdictions, but we were unable to confirm all that, because there are so many different groups stealing things.”

That observation led Nyunt to remind residents to lock their cars and take valuables with them.