A citizen stepped up to stop a robbery. Now the bandit blames him for excessive wounds

The alleged bandit who wound up with 17 stab wounds after his attempt to rob a Fresno Starbucks was interrupted by a customer thinks the citizen went overboard in thwarting the robbery, but lawyers say those allegations would be a tough sell to a jury.

Ryan Michael Flores, 30, readily admitted in a jailhouse interview that he was wrong to pull a fake gun and then a knife while masked during the July 21 robbery gone bad at the coffee shop near Herndon Avenue and Highway 99.

But Flores says he was simply trying to get away after Cregg Jerri, 58, smacked him over the head with a chair. As the fight went to the floor, Jerri managed to get control of Flores’ knife and the younger man was stabbed repeatedly. Jerri was also seriously injured – slashed in the neck, and he received six staples after the confrontation.

Flores is charged with second-degree robbery and assault with a deadly weapon. He remains in Fresno County Jail.

In a news conference, Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer praised Jerri as a hero who stepped up to stop the crime. No one else in the Starbucks at that moment was hurt.

But Flores’ parents, Pamela Chimenti and Mark Flores, say Jerri’s actions were a clear case of excessive force, that Flores nearly died in the emergency room, and that Jerri should be charged with committing a more serious offense than their son.

However, Ty Kharazi, an attorney called on to represent Jerri, as well as Fresno attorney William Schmidt, who works on excessive-force cases, say the chances of Jerri facing penalties are slim. Jerri could not be reached for comment.

Differing views

Chimenti said her son nearly died twice while in intensive care from stab wounds in his torso but was revived. She described the wounds he received as “kill strikes.”

“Once you have somebody down, you can’t keep stabbing them,” she said.

Said Mark Flores:

“I understand he (Ryan Flores) robbed the store but (Jerri) stabbed my son 17 times.”

Mark Flores believes Judge Wayne Ellison supported his view that Jerri used too much force in stopping the crime because during an August court hearing, Ellison advised Jerri to “get a lawyer.” But Kharazi says Mark Flores misunderstood Ellison’s intent, which was to ensure Jerri’s interests were protected.

“The judge was trying to watch out for” Jerri, said Kharazi.

Added Kharazi: “He (Flores) pulled a gun, the (cashier) starts laughing at him. The he pulls a knife and (Jerri) was hitting him with the chair. (Flores) turns and stabs Jerri  My client is a good Samaritan.”

Schmidt said a bystander “does have the right to use lethal force in self-defense, or the defense of others.

“However, there is no blanket liability,” added Schmidt, who said anyone considering legal action against such a bystander would have to show that person displayed “unreasonable malice” in his actions. Schmidt agreed establishing that in court would be an uphill climb.

In the jail interview, Flores was more ambivalent about seeking legal recourse for his injuries.

“I’m taking it one step at a time.” he said. “I don’t like to judge people, but that’s a lot of stab wounds.”

Flores is resigned to remaining behind bars for some time in the attempted robbery. He said a lung wound and a facial injury sustained in the fight linger, but he has largely recovered.

Flores said he was something of a celebrity at the jail because video of the Starbucks fight went viral on social media.

“It was on Worldstarhiphop,” said Flores, who wore a Transformers Optimus Prime mask during the botched heist.

“Everybody in here knows me,” he added somewhat ruefully. “There are a lot of jokes.”

‘No money and bills’

Flores said he has never been in jail before and that a dependence on drugs, which began when he was prescribed opioids following a motorcycle crash, contributed to his robbery attempt.

The day of the robbery, he said he was high on methadone as well as a Xanax derivative and alcohol (Xanax is used to treat anxiety and panic disorders). He was short of cash for his wife and 2 ½-year-old son when he grabbed the fake gun and jumped into his pickup. As usual, he was carrying the knife.

“I was stressed. No money and bills,” he said.

He drove around aimlessly for about 30 minutes before winding up at the Highway 99 and Herndon intersection, where he first thought of robbing a 76 gas station. But he didn’t want to take money from the owner of the business. Then his thoughts turned to the Starbucks, which he reasoned was part of a corporation and therefore no one would personally suffer a loss.

“It was pretty spontaneous.”

A video of the incident shows Jerri seated at a table reading from a tablet as Flores enters and makes demands. Then Jerri jumps up, grabs a chair and slams it on Flores. A fight ensues and Flores stabs Jerri in the neck. Jerri gets hold of Flores’ knife and stabs him.

Flores denies intentionally stabbing Jerri, and says it happened when his hand flew back in the scuffle.

Then, he lost control of his knife.

“He just started stabbing me,” said Flores, who says he remembers saying, “I have a son, please stop.”

Flores remembers getting back in his truck and driving to Fruit and Ashlan avenues, where citizens spotted the bloody man and called police. He woke up in Community Regional Medical Center. Police interviewed him in the hospital and booked him for the robbery. He was taken to jail a few days later.

Flores said it would be unfair for him to face additional time for causing great bodily harm because all that was on his mind during the fight was escape.

“I’m willing to do a year, a year and a half,” he said. “But not two or four years.”

Related stories from Fresno Bee