Man sentenced for role in violent Apple store robbery

Johnny Chenda to serve 15 years in prison

SAN DIEGO - A man involved in the violent robbery of a South Bay Apple store was sentenced Monday.

Judge Edward Allard III handed 26-year-old Johnny Chenda a sentence of 15 years in prison -- the maximum under his plea deal.

At a preliminary hearing last year, a judge dismissed a murder charge against Chenda. The judge did not accept the prosecution's theory that Chenda was responsible for Choulamontry's death.

On April 4, 2011, Chenda and Alex Choulamontry forced entry into the store at Otay Ranch Town Center, according to prosecutors. Choulamontry pointed a gun at a security guard as Chenda tried to steal electronics.

The security guard pulled his weapon and the men were involved in a gun battle. Choulamontry was shot and killed in the exchange, while Chenda and alleged accomplice Melissa Ortiz tried to escape. They were caught later that morning in a nearby neighborhood.

On Monday, Allard said while on one hand he sees Chenda as a "mild-mannered" man, he could not ignore the fact that Chenda walked into the store with a loaded weapon.

Chenda's public defender, Juliana Humphrey, argued that although Chenda had a long criminal history, his prior theft arrests were not violent. She also said that Chenda's drug use played a role.

"No one feels worse about what happened that day than he. He had not intended any violence to occur. I respectfully disagree. The whole purpose of coming to the mall at 6 a.m. is to avoid people, not to scare people," Humphrey said.

The prosecutor said that the robbery instilled fear in those who shop in the South Bay.

"I know this happened at 6 a.m., but I am sure that for months after this incident, people were thinking about what happened at that store," said Deputy District Attorney Carlos Varela.

Chenda plans to apply for fire camp while in prison.

Ortiz, 23, is charged with being a lookout in the Apple store break-in.

She's also charged with murder -- along with two co-defendants -- in the Oct. 27, 2011, death of San Diego police Officer Christopher Wilson.

Wilson was killed in a shootout as probation officers and federal marshals attempted to conduct a probation compliance search at one of the co-defendant's apartment on South Meadowbrook Drive.

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