SAN DIEGO - Six people were in custody Thursday for allegedly carrying out a series of home invasion robberies during which some victims were tied up and threatened with guns in their northern San Diego residences.
Arrested Wednesday evening in connection with the four crimes, one of which also involved a sex assault, were Stephen Ramon Gomez, 20, Victor Fransisco Harvey, 19, Aaron David Rico, 20, Robin Elizabeth Shawver, 20, Thomas James Smith, 24, and a 17-year-old whose name was withheld because he is a minor, according to San Diego police.
Police said four of the arrestees are documented gang members.
"These dangerous criminals brought fear to our city," Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman told reporters during a midday briefing. "They entered our homes during the night while we slept, boldly confronting anyone inside. They terrorized our citizens, escalating their violence as their crime spree continued."
Gomez, Rico, Shawver and Smith were each booked on multiple robbery charges, according to jail records. Gomez, Rico and Shawver also face kidnapping charges; Gomez and Shawver a conspiracy charge; and Harvey a charge of receiving stolen property.
Gomez also is accused of committing rape with a foreign object during one of the burglaries, Capt. David Nieslit said.
The arrests came a week after homes in the Sabre Springs and Carmel Mountain Ranch neighborhoods were looted with residents present. In each case, the perpetrators entered through unlocked doors.
The most recent of the crimes occurred in the 14000 block of Breezeway Place near Cedarhurst Lane shortly before 5:30 a.m. last Thursday, according to police. It took place about five miles from where a trio of thieves entered a home in the 11300 block of Spring Meadow Lane through a side door less than three hours earlier.
The suspects also have been linked to a similar robbery that took place in the 11400 block of Aliento Court in Rancho Bernardo on Feb. 5, and another that occurred in the 10700 block of Passerine Way in Sorrento Valley on Jan. 31, according to police.
"This is something, as you can imagine, that caused a lot of grief among my constituents," District 5 Councilman Mark Kersey told reporters during the news conference outside downtown SDPD headquarters.
The case serves as a stark reminder that citizens must "remain vigilant," the councilman said.
"This is not the 1950s," he said. "You need to keep your doors locked at night."
While conducting searches as part of the investigation, detectives impounded two replica guns believed to have been used during the robberies, the captain said.
The adult suspects were scheduled to be arraigned Friday afternoon. It was not immediately clear when the minor would make his first court appearance in the case.
Police did not disclose how they identified the suspects and would not specify which of them allegedly have gang ties.
Team 10 investigates suspects' criminal backgrounds
Thomas Smith's record showed a string of arrests beginning in 2011 and ending less than a year ago with a conviction for first-degree burglary of a home in Scripps Ranch.
The owner of the home told Team 10 Smith got in by breaking a window, and he took two computers, but left a fingerprint that led to his arrest.
Smith also has a 2013 felony conviction for burglarizing a car, and several misdemeanor convictions, including two that involved domestic violence.
In July 2011, Smith was arrested for making a criminal threat, phone harassment and vandalism. The victim was a woman.
Later that same year, he was charged with domestic violence on the mother of his child. The criminal complaint says he pushed her to the ground and started to strangle her, before she managed to get free.
Smith has two prior convictions for petty theft in 2011 and 2014.
Aaron Rico was arrested for conspiracy to commit the crime of shoplifting. He and another man stole less than $950 worth of clothing from a Tilly's store, according to court documents.
Rico pleaded guilty to shoplifting and was placed on supervised release. He was ordered to get a job and go to school.
On Jan. 16, 2016, he appeared before the judge as proof of his continued good behavior. One month later, he is facing several felony counts.
Shawver, the only woman accused in the string of home invasion robberies, appears to have a GoFundMe page.
The 20-year-old claims in the post that she works two jobs to support her two young daughters, but a car accident further depleted her funds.
No donations were noted on the web page.
Last week, police reported that there were as many as eight home invasion robberies dating back to January. All of them have had a similar M.O. in which three armed male suspects enter the home through an unlocked door:
- Feb. 11, Sabre Springs: The suspects entered through a side door and began to steal items. The homeowner awoke to the noise, called 911 and confronted the suspects, who fled in an unknown direction.
- Feb. 11, Carmel Mountain: The suspects intentionally awoke the victims, tied them up, ransacked their home and fled. At least two of the suspects were armed with handguns.
- Feb. 5, Rancho Bernardo: Three men broke into a Rancho Bernardo home, tied up two residents with shoe strings and fled with cash and jewelry.
- Jan. 31, Sorrento Valley: A home invasion robbery in the 10700 block of Passerine Way.
- Jan. 29, a Scripps Ranch family in the 11000 block of Fortino Point was tied up and held at gunpoint by three suspects while their home was ransacked.