SDPD, FBI Searching for ‘Berenstain Bandits' Crew After 14 Robberies Across SoCal

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Local law-enforcement is searching for a three-suspect crew believed to have knocked over more than a dozen businesses all across Southern California.

The robbers -- two men and a driver -- go into businesses armed, one with a silver revolver and the other with a black handgun, officials said.

On Wednesday night, the men entering the targeted buildings were wearing yellow vests, yellow bandanas to cover their faces

The FBI is calling the crew the Berenstain Bandits, a reference to the Berenstain Bears series of children's books in which the father always wears a bright yellow shirt.

Investigators, who believe the suspects are either from San Diego or have ties to the county, said three businesses were robbed in San Bernardino County overnight:

  • Rite Aid at Carnelian and 19th streets in Rancho Cucamonga
  • Shell gas station at Day Creek Boulevard and Highland Avenue in Rancho Cucamonga
  • CVS in the 1200 block of Summit Avenue in Fontana

Officials said the suspects were in a light-colored newer model Dodge Charger with a black rear spoiler and black rims on Wednesday. The car had what was believed to be a stolen license plate -- 6ZCS069 or 960SCZ9 -- installed upside down.

An employee at the Shell station described her terrifying experience to NBC 7's sister station, KNBC.

"The came in pretty fast," the worker said. "One was wearing an orange vest -- they were both African-American males -- and he told me to, 'Chill, to chill, to chill,' and to open the register and give us all the money. So when we told him we couldn't open the safe, he started pointing the gun at our faces. And then one of them was kind of, like, in the distance, and they both had guns."

The employee said it was shocking to find out the robbers had been on a spree.

"It's scary," the woman said. "It's alarming, it's a little … it's one of those things that you think will never happen to you, and then it happens."

The robbers have also hit businesses in La Mesa, Oceanside and San Juan Capistrano and targeted others in well in North Hollywood and Murrieta as well, according to law enforcement:

  • Oct. 20, 11:10 p.m.: 7-Eleven 4200 Spring St., La Mesa
  • Oct. 20, 11:22 p.m.: Shell gas station 5302 Lake Murray Blvd., La Mesa
  • Oct. 21: 12:17 a.m.: 7-Eleven 2985 Via Las Roses, Oceanside
  • Nov. 3, 1:24 a.m.: Ramada at 1440 Mission Ave in Oceanside
  • Nov. 3, 2:40 a.m.: Shell station 2606 Clairemont Drive, San Diego
  • Nov. 3, 3:14 a.m.: Comfort Inn 2485 Hotel Circle Plaza SD
  • Nov. 3, 3:52 a.m.: 76 gas station, 3401 College Blvd., Oceanside
  • Nov. 3, 4:24 a.m.: Shell gas station 27101 Ortega Highway, San Juan Capistrano
  • Nov. 5, 3 a.m.: Comfort Inn 41005 California Oaks Road, Murrieta
  • Nov. 5, 3:09 a.m.: 7-Eleven 40981 California Oaks Road, Murrieta
  • Nov. 9, 2:15 a.m.: Elite Smoke Shop at 3535 Cahuenga Blvd., North Hollywood

At the Shell station robbery on Clairemont Drive, an employee had just come back from taking out the trash and was about to lock the front doors when two men walked up and pulled open the doors before they could be locked, San Diego police Officer John Buttle said. Both men had handguns and demanded money from the employee, the officer said. When the employee told them he didn't have any, one of the men pistol-whipped him in the head.

The FBI chose not to disclose any additional information regarding the cases when asked for more details or images of the suspects.

"FBI policy prohibits confirming or denying an investigation unless in rare circumstances when publicity would help the investigation, such as in seeking a missing child or trying to identify a bank robber," Special Agent Davene Butler told NBC 7 in an email on Thursday.

However, Butler did say that tips about criminal activity can be reported at or 858-320-1800.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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