Two men have been arrested for allegedly robbing nine Fresno liquor and convenience stores at gunpoint in an 18-hour period, Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer said in a news conference Tuesday. The bandits took breaks in the middle of the spree when the getaway driver went to pick up his girlfriend from work, the chief said.
The robberies took place from 5:40 p.m. Thursday to 10:30 p.m. Friday, Dyer said. Two of them occurred just two minutes apart from each other, while two others occurred seven minutes apart. This led police to believe the crimes were related. During one robbery, a clerk attempted to fight with the suspect, whose gun fired twice during the altercation but did not hit anyone.
Detectives reviewed surveillance footage and witness statements and determined that a Hispanic man used a 1911-style handgun and a silver Dodge Charger with red stripes to commit the robberies. In all, $3,700 and a few liquor bottles were stolen.
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By Saturday, Dyer said, police had arrested two men: Brian Johnson, 26, and Blaze Lopez, 21. Detectives determined Lopez had committed the robberies while Johnson acted as a getaway driver and provided Lopez with the gun, which is legally registered to Johnson.
Dyer said both men confessed to the robberies. Cash, clothing, the gun and the liquor bottles were recovered during searches at both suspects’ homes.
The getaway car belonged to Johnson’s girlfriend, Dyer said. The robberies died off at 10:30 p.m. each night because Johnson had to use the car to pick up his girlfriend from work when she got off at 11 p.m.
Detective Pat Mares said both suspects have a limited criminal history, which is rare for such a calm and extensive group of robberies. Dyer called the crimes “brazen.”
Detective Miguel Archon said the two men were on a drug binge and looking for money. Lopez told Archon he hadn’t slept for some time and didn’t remember some of the robberies.
If convicted, Dyer said, both men will likely face more than 25 years in prison. Because Lopez fired a gun during a violent crime, he could face additional sentence enhancements.