Two people have been arrested for a string of armed robberies -- involving guns and, in one case, a machete -- targeting San Diego businesses open 24 hours a day, San Diego Police (SDPD) officers said.
The series of eight different, unsolved armed robberies across seven San Diego businesses became known as the "Friars Bandit" series, because one of the suspect was seen in surveillance footage wearing a Padres hat.
After two months of investigating, police arrested their primary suspect, Manuel Rodriguez, 20, on March 9. Rodriguez, who has a prior record, is facing multiple counts of armed robberies. Angel Oros, 18, arrested on March 8, is facing one count of armed robbery, though police said they may add more charges as the investigation continues. Both suspects have been booked into county jail.
Many of the victims that spoke with NBC 7 said the arrests mean they can breathe a little easier.
"It's so scary, you see the gun, oh my gosh, later, you thinking, 'oh my God, what if they shoot us?' or something, so scary," said Olivia Uribe, the manager at a targeted Subway restaurant.
Uribe still recalls the morning of Jan. 20, 2016; she says she remembers it was exactly 5:25 a.m. when a gunman walked in and demanded cash, while another man stood watch outside.
It was the first robbery linked to this series, but not the last. The overnight clerk at the Yum Yum Donuts shop on Linda Vista road said he thought of his children when an armed intruder pointed a gun at this face.
SDPD Officer Todd Griffin, with the robbery unit, said the series was a top priority for the unit.
"Anytime a robbery is carried out with a gun, there's that real possibility of someone being shot injured or killed during the commissioning of this robbery,” he said.
Griffin said Rodriguez made a crucial mistake during the spree, helping detectives crack the case: he left behind a mask.
"This case was a DNA case, as with every crime there's always that transfer of evidence rule, where you always bring something in, take something out, in this case a piece of evidence was left behind at the crime scene," Griffin said.
Griffin said he and his team were thankful to have made the arrests before someone got hurt.
"Yeah, more safe; I feel good, because they arrest the people who commit the crimes and I know it's OK for me now," Uribe said.
The series included the following cases:
- January 20, 2016 Subway, 2850 National Avenue
- January 22, 2016 Subway, 422 Market Street
- January 22, 2016 OD Market, 546 Sampson Street
- January 23, 2016 7-Eleven, 3792 4th Avenue
- February 27, 2016 Yum Yum Donuts, 6925 Linda Vista Road
- March 1, 2016 7-Eleven, 430 Spruce Street
- March 7, 2016 7-Eleven, 2101 Fern Street
- March 7, 2016 7-Eleven, 3792 4th Avenue
The investigation is ongoing. SDPD officers ask if you have any information regarding these crimes to please call them at (619) 531-2000 or, if you would like to remain anonymous, Crime Stoppers (888) 580-8477.