Suspected getaway driver in series of armed robberies arraigned, held on $500,000 bail

Sunday night crime spree featured 11 victims

SAN DIEGO - One of three men accused in a series of armed holdups in which a gun was held to the head of some of the victims pleaded not guilty Wednesday to robbery and attempted robbery charges.

Benjamin Hernandez, 23, the alleged getaway driver in all the robberies, was ordered held in lieu of $500,000 bail.

"He was driving the car, and two other people were (involved) ... one had a gun, the other had a crowbar," Deputy District Attorney Dan Link alleged outside court. "Often times in these robberies, the gun was placed to the head of the victim, and in most cases, either a cell phone or a wallet was taken."

One person was struck with the crowbar, the prosecutor said.

Link said San Diego police are following leads to try and capture the other two suspects. He said a witness to the first robbery attempt gave police their first break. 

"Another person was actually watching those three being robbed and was able to get the license plate of the car which led police to the suspect we have in custody now," said Link.

The prosecutor said there were seven holdups between 6:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. last Sunday, including four in Ocean Beach, four downtown, one in Point Loma and two at UCSD.

Hernandez faces 15 years in prison if convicted, Link said.

Several members of Hernandez's family were in court crying. Afterward, they politely asked questions about the legal process, apparently unfamiliar with such things as bail and arraignments.

A readiness conference is scheduled Feb. 18 and a preliminary hearing on Feb. 20.

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