FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) --Surveillance video taken from Village Liquor showed the suspects carting away cases of smokes. The young suspects are fast and they have hoodies on-- but it didn't hide their faces.
Stunned witnesses watched the crime unfold-- a small snafu in the parking lot prompted one of the suspects to jump out and slam the trunk shut. That was the first of three armed robberies that police say the suspects traveled more than two hours away from their hometown to commit.
"Stealing the cigarettes in Fresno, selling them back in Stockton is most likely why they did that. So they would go undetected on the sale of those cigarettes," said Jerry Dyer, Fresno Police Chief.
Detectives were able to get a decent look at the suspects, but paper plates and changing cars made it hard to track them down or get their ID-- until they pulled into Palm and Shields Liquor for another robbery.
Officers said a witness who watched the entire robbery go down took the initiative to follow the suspects when they left the scene.
"That's not something we generally recommend, however, in this incidence it paid big dividends because he was able to obtain a piece of evidence from that vehicle that ultimately allowed for the identification of the suspect as well as the suspect vehicle," said Dyer.
Investigators said the paper plate with the car lot Baba's Cars led officers to the Stockton dealership that helped identify the suspects. From there officers were able to track down the suspects when they returned to the Sam's Club parking lot again.
Under arrest are Adrian Sarraraz and Edward Balanon-- a 17-year-old was also taken into custody.
Officers also found a loaded gun hidden in the car's center console.
Officers have served search warrants in Stockton but the stolen cigarettes have not been recovered.
The suspects are not cooperating with detectives and have refused to provide a statement.
The Chief believes these store owners were targeted because of a major price increase on cigarettes that goes into effect in a few weeks.