Surveillance video shows a 20-year-old suspect armed with a handgun enter a MetroPCS store in Santa Ana last month. Two other suspects come in. One watches the door. They grab money from the cash register and are gone within a minute.
"The suspects went to great lengths to conceal their identity," said Garden Grove Police Chief Kevin Raney.
That was one of 12 armed takeover robberies since in Anaheim, Garden Grove and Santa Ana since January. Police say the robbers stole about $7,000 in cash from smoke shops and shoe and clothing stores. In one of the Anaheim robberies, a store owner fired a gun at the suspects, who shot back. No one was hit.
The different police departments subsequently began working together.
"We had teams throughout the three cities monitoring similar businesses in an effort to catch them," said Raney.
Police say the break in the case came during that MetroPCS store robbery.
"During that robbery the suspects had taken a phone," said Santa Ana Police Chief Carlos Rojas. "Eventually we were able to track that phone all the way to the city of Ontario."
Police say Raul Ochoa, a 20-year-old gang member from Ontario, is in custody, along with 18-year-old Eric Gonzalez, also from Ontario.
Detectives recovered numerous weapons, ammunition and clothing. Police allege the suspects admitted to the crimes.
Police are still trying to identify the third suspect, who is described as standing 5 feet 8 inches tall with a heavy build. He usually wore clothing with the Dodgers baseball team logo during the robberies.
If you have information related to the case, call Orange County Crime Stoppers at (855) TIP-OCCS. Callers may remain anonymous.