Suspects arrested in violent robbery spree in Fresno County

July 17, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Four people are under arrest and investigators are searching for more victims in what they're calling a violent crime spree.

The Fresno County Sheriff's Department is now working with detectives from Reedley, Selma, Sanger and Dinuba police departments to link the four robbery suspects to a string of violent attacks that began on the fourth of July.

Sheriff's deputies say Sanger police caught the suspects after a potential victim called 911 in the middle of an attempted robbery. The attacks happened in the early morning hours while people were just heading into work.

Most of the victims in these violent attacks became targets on rural Fresno County roads.

"Out on the county road, a vehicle would come out with bright lights on, it would pull around them and slam on the brakes, forcing the victims to stop in the middle of the road," said Deputy Chris Curtice with the Fresno County Sheriff's Department.

Investigators caught their break near Reedley, where the suspects forced a couple to stop in the middle of the road on Huntsman near Kings River Road. When the driver saw one of the suspects running toward her car, she sped away.

But just three miles away, investigators say the suspects caught up with the couple and again forced them to stop in the road at Smith and Rose. The couple again escaped and reported the license plate number to 911 dispatches.

Sanger police tracked the suspects down to Highway 180 and Fairbanks just outside of Sanger.

They arrested 27-year-old Johnny Lopez of Fresno, 21-year-old Audriana Mata of Sanger, 19-year-old Francisco Villa and 22-year-old Paula Villa of Parlier. Investigators say the four suspects are violent.

"Five people were stabbed, they received minor wounds," Curtice said. "Although, two of the people that were stabbed did have to go to the hospital for treatment, and one person was pistol whipped."

Deputies say the four robbers are also linked to a home invasion in Fresno County early Wednesday morning. No one was injured in this incident.

In another related case a group of day laborers was waiting for a ride to work on a street corner in Reedley when they were robbed. The men did not report the crime initially and detectives fear there may be more victims.

Manuel Cunha of the Nisei Farmers League says undocumented workers are too often targets of similar crimes. "We've got to have people come forward so we can solve these crimes and criminal activity," he said. "Because, if we don't, they're going to escalate in our community, and they keep growing, including gangs."

The Fresno County Sheriff's department is asking if you think you may have been targeted by those four suspects to call them immediately.

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