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3 Men Held in Robberies at Markets : Crime: Police press investigation into holdups at 35 grocery stores after suspects are caught at a Palms supermarket.

July 25, 1991|JIM HERRON ZAMORA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Authorities this week said they are pressing their investigation of three men suspected of 35 supermarket robberies around the Westside and in the San Fernando Valley.

Rodney Aubrey King, 24, and Sean Eugene Farris, 23, both of South Los Angeles, and Gerald Lynn Wade, 22, of San Diego, were arrested July 18 outside a supermarket in Palms that they had allegedly just robbed, police said.

Officers assigned to a special robbery detail caught the three men in the parking lot of a Lucky supermarket in the 3400 block of Sepulveda Boulevard near Palms Boulevard, said Los Angeles Police Lt. Ross Moen.

On Monday, the three men pleaded innocent to three counts each of armed robbery during their arraignment in West Los Angeles Municipal Court.

Meanwhile, police throughout Southern California are comparing notes to see if they can link them to more robberies, and the local investigation is continuing, Moen said.

Moen said the men are believed to have robbed at least 25 markets in and near the Westside, including stores in Los Angeles, Santa Monica and Inglewood. They usually got $1,000 to $1,500 per robbery, he said.

Ten or more additional counts will probably be filed against the suspects before the end of the week, Moen said. Each suspect could face up to 180 years in prison.

Moen said he believed it was the third time the Lucky supermarket in Palms had been robbed allegedly by Wade and King, dubbed "Mutt and Jeff" by police because of the difference in their heights. Wade is 5-foot-10 and weighs 160 pounds, while King is 6-foot-2 and weighs 170 pounds.

Plainclothes police probing the string of robberies were patrolling the area. Alerted by a report of the robbery, they were waiting when two of the alleged robbers emerged from the store, Moen said.

"We had an established a network of measures planned to stop them," Moen said. "It was part of a patrol plan. . . . The exact tactics we don't want to reveal."

Wade and King surrendered without incident, police said. King then pointed out Farris as he passed the parking lot in the would-be getaway car. Police recovered $1,600 and two semiautomatic handguns that King and Wade allegedly used to rob store manager Kenneth Chapman.

Bail was set at $750,000 each and police were trying to raise the amount because of the "frequency and gravity" of the robberies, Moen said.

The robberies occurred about every three days since March, often between 4 p.m and midnight. No shots were ever fired.

Times staff writer Josh Meyer contributed to this story.

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