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Hooded bandits steal $23K in cigarettes

Hooded bandits steal $23K in cigarettes

Four suspects who robbed Exeter convenience store linked to series of robberies across Tulare County


TULARE COUNTY – Police believe a robbery in Exeter last month is part of an organized group that may have stolen nearly $23,000 in cigarettes from convenience stores throughout Tulare County.

Surveillance footage from the Red Barn, 29615 Road 196 in Exeter, shows four masked suspects wearing gloves and hooded sweatshirts break into the convenience store at 2:54 a.m. on June 28 and steal approximately $3,000 worth of cigarettes. The suspects then fled in a gray or silver-colored Nissan with a vertical sunroof and a disabled placard attached to the rear-view mirror.

The Tulare County Sheriff’s Department believes that these same suspects are connected to four other convenience store robberies in Tulare, Pixley, and Traver. The crimes began on April 27 when suspects broke into the Dollar General Store in Pixley and stole approximately $3,250 worth of cigarettes at  around 2:29 a.m. Three days later suspects wearing similar clothing broke into Doc’s Corner in Tulare and took $1,300 worth of cigarettes and also tried to steal cash from the register at 12:34 a.m. on April 30.

After a few weeks, the suspects struck again. At 3 a.m. on June 15, the masked men broke into the Chevron gas station at 36005 Highway 99 in Traver and stole approximately $8,640 worth of cigarettes. They again tried to steal cash from the register. The suspects drove off northbound in a white or light-colored newer Honda with tinted windows. They returned to the same gas station at 4:01 a.m. on July 3 and took approximately $6,700 worth of cigarettes, this time driving off in a maroon-colored sedan, possibly a Honda. 

During the course of the investigation, deputies and detectives determined the suspects would break into all of the stores in the same way and target the same type of merchandise. The suspects also dressed in similar clothes each time. Anyone with information about these burglaries or the identities of the suspects is asked to call the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office at 559-733-6211 or TipNow at 559-725-4194 or tcso@tipnow.com.

Sheriff’s Log

Saturday, June 30
Deputies responded to the intersection of Avenue 192 and Road 152 where a roadside vendor said he was beaten a robbed by suspects riding on an All Terrain Vehicle (ATV). 

The victim said one of the suspects began pulling him into an orchard while the other pointed a gun at him. Then they physically assaulted the victim and took the his cell phone and money. The suspects were seen prior to the robbery riding the ATV north on Road 152 near Avenue 180, north of Woodville. The identities of the men remain unknown. 

Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office Investigations Unit and ask for Det. R. Morley, or Sgt. L. Camacho at 559-733-6218 or 800-808-0488. Anonymous information can be reported via Tipnow email tcso@tipnow.net, or by text or voicemail at 559-725-4194. 

Wednesday, July 11
At 12:30 a.m. in the 1000 block of Hermosa Avenue in Tulare, deputies responded to a report of kidnapping and robbery. A 20-year-old man told deputies he had been lured to the 19600 block of Acacia just outside of Lindsay where he was met by a man and woman. The suspects pulled out a gun, kidnapped him, took him back to his house in Tulare and then took money and clothing from him. During the course of the investigation, detectives from the Violent Crimes Unit, along with deputies from the Porterville Substation, tracked down the suspects to the 100 block of North Waukesha Street in Porterville. They served a search warrant and the home and found evidence linking both suspects to the crime. Arrested were 20-year-old Kassandra Mendez and 19-year-old Gerardo Pena both of Porterville. The victim reported a total loss of $1,460 and detectives recovered $1,373 worth of his property. Both Mendez and Pena were later booked into the Adult Pre-Trial Facility. The relationship between the victim and both suspects is still under investigation. 

Saturday, July 14
Between July 6 and July 14, detectives with the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department’s TAGNET (Tulare Area Gang and Narcotic Enforcement Team) conducted a gang suppression patrol in the communities of Orosi, Porterville, Pixley, and Strathmore. Throughout the week, detectives conducted multiple traffic stops and were able to seize four illegally possessed firearms. 

Arrested were 28-year-old Demetrio Hernandez of Orosi and 33-year-old Tyler Morris of Terra Bella, both on charges of being a felon and a gang member in possession of a loaded firearm; 18-year-old Jonathon Ramirez and 36-year-old Jose Urbina, both of Pixley and both on charges of being under the influence of a controlled substance and a gang member while in possession of a loaded firearm, Gang member in possession of a firearm; and 32-year-old Antonio Sandoval of Porterville on charges of possession of a loaded firearm in public.

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