STOCKTON — Stockton police are giving more details about an officer-involved shooting, which sent two would-be armed robbers to the hospital.
While a third suspect is still on the run, police believe this group is behind a dozen other armed robberies over the past four months. Sixteen locations were hit in Stockton alone since July and police said Saturday the suspects may have hit stores in other cities as well.
“I couldn’t see their face at all,” said Jay Martin, who was inside the Wingstop on Manthey Road, just seconds before it was robbed Friday night.
But, fortunately, he decided to eat his wings in his car.
“I just heard gunshots go off and I ducked under my car and that’s it,” Martin said.
Police Chief Eric Jones told reporters Saturday this time two Stockton police officers were waiting for the armed men.
“And at least one suspect turned and pointed the shotgun at the officers,” Jones said. “Fearing for their and others’ safety, the police officers fired their weapons.”
Two of the suspects, 18-year-old Joe Ortiz and 19-year-old Serrill Galloway, were struck by the police gunfire. Both teens, who are from Stockton, are now in critical but stable condition at hospitals.
A third suspect who was with them ran towards Interstate 5 and after an extensive man hunt, has yet to be arrested.
“To be able to be in that right spot at that right time, when they’re committing the act, is very difficult to do,” Jones said.
Detectives had been working on the violent robberies, they dubbed “the shotgun robbery series”, for months.
In each case the suspects were armed with shotguns and targeted gas stations, liquor stores and fast food restaurants, often committing two robberies in one night. So to catch them, Jones said his department went high-tech.
“Predictive analysis software. I would liken that to the term we use is ‘crime forecasting’,” Jones said.
After a liquor store was hit on Thornton Road Friday night, detectives knew another business would be targeted soon, and so officers spread out.
“Very proud of the men and women of the Stockton Police Department for their analytical and investigative work which got us in the right area at the right time,” Jones said.
Jones said they believe the group of robbers may have struck businesses outside of Stockton, and that they’re now working with police in Citrus Heights and Manteca.
Citrus Heights police said they are not investigating any crimes they believe are related to the series of armed robberies, but they did say that they have assisted the Stockton Police in an investigation.
Meanwhile, stores that were previous victims hope others take away a valuable lesson from all of this.
“Everybody is going to get caught sooner or later,” said Fadhel Mohamad, whose store, Stockton Smoke Shop & Vape, was robbed Nov. 7.
“Eventually yeah, it’s a matter of time, you know what I mean,” said Shawn Teixeira, an employee at J Liquors, which was robbed Nov. 5. “My advise is it’s not worth it. Just take care of your kids, go to work, make money like everyone else does.”
Jones said there’s likely going to be more arrests. Officers said there could be up to five members of this team, including a getaway driver. Now that they know who two of them are, it won’t be long before they find the others.