Editor’s note: This story has been updated, as police no longer believe the two suspects mentioned in this article are responsible for the spree of armed robberies.
REDLANDS — One Redlands Police Department watch commander predicted a bank robbery in downtown Redlands. Instead, it was a hotel in nearby Moreno Valley.
In a crime spree that may include well over 20 armed robberies, Riverside County sheriff’s deputies arrested Robert Renteria, 29, and Alfonso Hall, 22, both of Moreno Valley, after an armed robbery at a Moreno Valley hotel on March 17. Six days before, they were suspected of robbing a gas station in Redlands.
Both men were taken into custody on March 17. It is believed that Hall committed most of the robberies in Redlands on his own.
On Tuesday, the Redlands watch commander remarked on the string of crimes that may be attributed to the two men, including the shooting of one victim. “This guy was really starting to get on our nerves,” said Sgt. Vonn Layel.
Hall is suspected of robbing three Redlands businesses last month starting with a Dairy Queen. On a Monday morning more than a week later, March 11, he was apparently scared away by an employee when he tried to rob the Radio Shack at 700 East Redlands Blvd.
A female employee at Radio Shack saw a man with a handgun entering the store at 8:30 a.m. She screamed and the man ran out before police could arrive.
“We weren’t that far away,” said Layel, “but we couldn’t get there in time.”
On the day both men were captured, watch commander Layel said he told his day shift to “keep an eye on the banks.”
“I have a feeling he’s going to try to rob a bank,” Layel recalled thinking. “I told them it was a feeling, but stay alert downtown.”
Police were looking for a black man in his 30s, between 6-foot-2 and 6-foot-4, weighing 200 pounds. During each of the robberies, the suspect was reported to be wearing a black, hooded sweatshirt, black pants, gloves and a bandanna over his face.
Hall apparently met that description, according to reports.
Layel said the same man is believed to have robbed Stell Coffee on March 7, the Dairy Queen on March 13 and a Shear Perfection hair salon the following day. During the Dairy Queen robbery, the suspect shot an employee in the leg.
“We feel (the shooting) was accidental,” said Layel, adding that the Redlands-based crimes were committed by one man.
In Redlands, which is located in San Bernardino County, Riverside County sheriff’s investigators say two men armed with handguns walked into a 76 gas station at 1075 Parkford Dr., forced the clerk into a back room and escaped with cash and cigarettes.
“We wanted him bad,” Layel admitted.
Riverside County authorities may have wanted him just as badly. On March 3, a suspect matching Hall’s description robbed a Ralph’s grocery store, ordering the manager to open the safe. The suspect escaped on foot with an undisclosed amount of cash, according to sheriff’s reports.
The Riverside County sheriff and San Bernardino County district attorney are working in concert to file charges in the San Bernardino County robberies.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated.