Active surveillance by San Diego Police Department (SDPD) officers and FBI investigators led to the arrest of two suspects believed to be involved in a series of robberies at Metro PCS stores across San Diego County, SDPD Capt. Brian Ahearn said.
Justin Caldwell, 30, and a second suspect, who gave officers at least two names and has yet to be positively identified, were arrested in Pacific Beach Tuesday afternoon. The men are accused of robbing a Metro PCS store on the 900 block of Grand Avenue, Ahearn said.
Metro PCS stores have been the target in a robbery spree. However, police have not officially tied this recent robbery to the series. Some of the other robberies were reported in Kensington, Egger Highlands, Normal Heights, and Clairemont, College East and San Marcos.
Ahearn said, however, that the two suspects are suspected to be involved in other cases in some capacity.
"There are similarities between today's robbery and the other Metro PCS store robberies that have occurred since Jan. 25," Ahearn said. "We believe that both Mr. Caldwell and Suspect Number 2 are involved in one of more of those cases in some capacity."
Since police began connecting the earlier Metro PCS robberies, Ahearn said, SDPD and FBI officials have been actively conducting surveillance of Metro PCS stores across the county.
Through that process, investigators identified Caldwell as a person of interest.
Early Tuesday, investigators began conducting surveillance on Caldwell as he drove through several communities.
“Throughout the surveillance, detectives did not have any information to indicate Mr. Caldwell was planning a robbery. Again, at this point, he was a person of interest," Ahearn said.
However, at one point he picked up a man -- later determined to be the man police referred to as Suspect Number Two -- and the men drove to the Metro PCS store in Pacific Beach.
Suspect Number Two was inside for approximately 30 seconds, Ahearn said, before exiting.
Police immediately tried to detain him as FBI and SDPD officials detained Caldwell.
However, Suspect Number Two fled, and uniformed officers pursued him on foot and by helicopter. As he ran, the man dropped what appeared to be a bank bag and a bag with phones.
The suspect ran into a garage on Oliver Street, where he dropped his weapon and some clothes before climbing over a nearby fence, where he was detained, police said.
FBI and SDPD officials recovered nine phones and several hundred dollars in cash, as well as a weapon and clothing, from Tuesday's robbery. The weapon recovered, Ahearn said, appears to be an airsoft handgun.
Police believe Caldwell and Suspect Number Two are working with at least one other person in the series of robberies. In the robberies, the suspect will walk into the store, point a gun at an employee, force an employee to fill a bag with cell phones, and then take cash before leaving, Ahearn said.
There may be other suspects wanted in connection with other Metro PCS robberies, Ahearn said, but there were no outstanding suspects from Tuesday's Pacific Beach robbery.
Both men will be charged with commercial robbery.
The robbery spree remains under investigation. Anyone with information is asked to call San Diego Police or Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.