Visalia police seek help identifying serial robbery suspect

The Fresno BeeJuly 7, 2014 

Visalia police released this image, taken from surveillance footage, of a man police say tried to rob the Holiday Inn on Wednesday night, July 2, 2014.

PHOTO PROVIDED BY VISALIA POLICE DEPARTMENT

Visalia police are seeking the public's help in identifying the suspect in a series of highway and frontage-road armed robberies of businesses.

Since June 25, a clean-shaven white male in his 20s committed six holdups or attempted robberies -- five in Visalia and one just outside of the city, police said.

One of those holdups happened last week at the Holiday Inn near the airport, police said. An image from a hotel video surveillance camera shows the man wearing a dark ball cap.

"Someone knows who it is," Sgt. Ozzie Dominguez said. The image is fuzzy, but "if you know someone well enough, you'll make it out," he said.

No one has been injured, but police fear someone will get hurt if the suspect is not caught, Dominguez said.

"When weapons -- and definitely a handgun -- are involved, that's definitely our concern," he said.

All but one of the incidents took place after dark in west Visalia, and in most cases near a highway on-ramp.

Meanwhile, a seventh armed robbery -- of a motel on Highway 99 between Visalia and Tulare that took place July 4 -- involved a similar modus operandi, but investigators aren't ready to say if the same man committed the robbery, police said.

The first in the string occurred about 11 p.m. June 25 at a Pizza Hut restaurant, at the northeast corner of Akers Street and Mineral King Avenue, which serves as the westbound frontage road to Highway 198.

The robber brandished a handgun at employees and demanded cash, police said.

One day later about 9:10 p.m., a man whose description matched the Pizza Hut robber walked into the lobby of the Lamp Liter Inn on West Mineral King, flashed a gun and demanded money, police said.

Two days later about 10 p.m., a man entered the Rite Aid Pharmacy at Walnut Avenue and Akers Street, showed his gun, made threats, demanded money and took cash, police said.

The next heist took place about 9:30 p.m. June 30 at In and Out Food Mart at Highway 99 and Caldwell Avenue, just outside city limits.

The Tulare County Sheriff's Department said a white male in his early 20s, clean shaven and wearing a black tank top, black jogging pants and a dark baseball cap pulled out a small-caliber handgun from his waistband and ordered employees to the ground.

He told the cashier to open the cash drawer and took about $336, the sheriff's department said.

About midnight July 2, a man tried to rob the Holiday Inn next to the Visalia airport, but the registers were empty and he left empty-handed, police said.

The next day about 11:45 a.m. in the only daylight robbery of the series, a man walked into Donuts to Go at Mineral King Avenue and Chinowth Street, brandished a handgun and took cash.

Anyone who has information or can identify the suspect is asked to call Visalia police Detective Mona Whaley at (559) 713-4211.

Information can also be given to the Tulare County Sheriff's Department anonymously at (800) 808-0488 or (559) 725-4194, or by email at tcso@tipnow.com.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6104, lgriswold@fresnobee.com or @fb_LewGriswold on Twitter.

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