Seven young suspects have been arrested in connection with a series of violent home invasions in San Diego’s North County, the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) announced Thursday.
Investigators said the following suspects are now in custody: Victor Harvey, 19; Thomas Smith, 24; Stephen Gomez, 20; Aaron Rico, 20; Robin Shawvner, 20; Jordan Wilson, 18. An unidentified 17-year-old suspect has also been arrested.
Police said the suspects -- six males and one female -- are all residents of San Diego County, four of whom are documented gang members. At least two suspects have criminal records.
According to investigators, the series of incidents in the North County involved several people accessing homes through a side door, tying up residents and stealing their valuables. The crimes took place between Jan. 31 and Feb. 11, between midnight and 5 a.m.
Investigators called the suspects “opportunists,” as each crime was committed through an unlocked door.
The suspects are linked to at least four home invasion robberies, including a Jan. 31 case on Passerine Way in Sorrento Valley, a Feb. 5 case on Aliento Court in Rancho Bernardo and two cases on Feb. 11 in Sabre Springs and Carmel Mountain Ranch – one on Spring Meadow Lane and one on Breezeway Place. A home invasion robbery in Scripps Ranch is also being investigated, and police are trying to determine if that case is also linked to the series.
SDPD officials held a news conference at noon Thursday to discuss the major break in this case.
SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman said the group of suspects conspired to commit the crimes. Zimmerman said investigators foresee additional charges for the suspects, who may also be responsible for a few other crimes and burglaries in the area.
Officials said detectives looked at all leads – big and small – in their search for the suspects. Search warrants were served Wednesday night. Investigators believe the "main players” in this crime spree are in custody, but there may be additional arrests.
On Wednesday night, police detained several people at a Best Western hotel in the Miramar area, but did not confirm, at that point, whether the detainees were are involved in the string of home invasion robberies. Witnesses told NBC 7 they saw at least three people, two females and one male, taken away after police stormed a hotel room.
At Thursday's news conference, police confirmed some of the suspects were, in fact, arrested at that hotel in Miramar.
Officials said the suspects may have been driving a dark gray or silver, newer model sedan or a white, newer model sedan with a sunroof. Police confirmed two vehicles have been impounded in connection with the crimes and are currently being processed for evidence.
Jail booking records indicated most of the suspects were set to appear in court Friday. Charges vary by suspect and range from robbery and conspiracy to commit a crime, to kidnapping for ransom.
One suspect, police said, is also facing a sexual assault charge in one of the home invasion robberies, but further details on that matter were not released Thursday.
SDPD detectives have recovered some of the items stolen in the home invasion robberies, and police are now working to get in touch with the victims so they can identify and claim their belongings.
During the search of the suspects, police also recovered two replica firearms believed to have been used in the crimes.
“[It was] phenomenal police work by these detectives led to suspects being identified, located and arrested,” an official added at the news conference.
SDPD’s Northeastern Division Capt. Dawn Summers said she was extremely proud of her detectives in this case and how hard they worked to hone in on the suspects.
“We got them,” said Summers, beaming.
Thursday was Summers’ last day at work, as she’s retiring after nearly 33 years on the force.
Councilman Mark Kersey said this break in the case was a great way for Summers to end her long career and a “fitting tribute” for all she’s done for San Diego.
“This is a really, really good day for the city,” said Kersey, adding that the crimes have caused a lot
of grief and concern among his constituents.
Kersey also touted the “good, old-fashioned police work” that led to the arrests, but said this case should serve as a warning for residents to keep their homes secure.
”This is not the 1950s – you need to keep your doors locked at night,” said Kersey.
Editor's Note: Victor Harvey and Jordan Wilson were originally arrested in connection with this case, as confirmed by the SDPD on Thursday. On Friday, however, Harvey and Wilson did not appear in court and were not charged in the crimes. Rico, Shawvner, Smith and Gomez were charged on Friday, as well as a 17-year-old suspect.