A man sought in a string of violent armed robberies in Fresno and Madera counties was captured Thursday after a wild high-speed rush-hour pursuit through the two counties.
Johnny Barajas, 35, with convictions for felony assault and robbery and multiple warrants for his arrest, was considered armed and dangerous, Madera police Lt. Gino Chiaramonte said at a Madera Police Department news conference on Wednesday. The department had asked for the public’s help to find Barajas.
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The high-speed chase started in southeast Fresno and went into the Sanger area, Clovis and back to Fresno before ending in Madera County. The chase lasted about 30 minutes, ending about 5:20 p.m. after he was slowed by a spike strip near Avenue 17 and Highway 99.
The first in the series of robberies was at the Metro PCS store on Kings Canyon Road in Fresno on May 14. Three days later, police believe the same man robbed the Cricket store on West Cleveland Avenue in Madera and on May 19 at a Subway in Chowchilla.
The following day, Madera County sheriff’s deputies briefly pursued a car believed to have been used in the robberies. The car was later found and impounded, but that day a fourth robbery occurred at the Madera Vape Shop on West Cleveland Avenue. In each case, the thief was extremely aggressive, grabbing victims by the hair and forcing them to the ground at gunpoint.
Fresno police first spotted the Chevrolet Avalanche that Barajas was driving near Church and Chestnut avenues in southeast Fresno about 4:45 p.m. The pursuit then went into the Sanger area and north on Academy Avenue.
Barajas then turned on Herndon Avenue west toward Clovis. As he approached Clovis, Lt. David Madrigal said, he waved a gun out of the sunroof toward officers behind him.
“He was showing us he had a gun and was waving it in a threatening manner toward officers,” Madrigal said.
Barajas then drove north on Temperance Avenue to get onto Highway 168 and continued west into Fresno at high speeds. He traveled from Highway 168 onto Highway 180 and drove west to Highway 99.
He drove north toward Madera before being stopped by a spike strip south of Avenue 17, just north of the city of Madera.
During the pursuit, he was reaching speeds exceeding 90 mph. He also had threatened “suicide by cop,” Madrigal said.
He was showing us he had a gun and and was waving it in a threatening manner toward officers.
Lt. David Madrigal, Fresno Police Department
After the truck was slowed by the spike strip, Barajas pulled off the highway at Avenue 17, stopped and got out of the truck with the gun in his hand.
Police didn’t shoot.
“That shows great restraint because he’s dangerous,” Madrigal said. “For whatever reason, he dropped the gun.”
But there may have been another explanation why Barajas dropped the gun, the same gun used in the robberies, said Chiaramonte
At the arrest scene, Chiaramonte took possession of the gun. He said it wasn’t real and that Barajas had it loaded with CO2 cartridges and some real bullets, but he couldn’t fire them.
Barajas was booked in Madera County’s corrections facility for two counts each of armed robbery and kidnapping related to the robberies. He also faces counts of auto theft, evading police, a felon in possession of a firearm and our-of-county warrants.