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1 Arrested, 1 Still Sought as Pants Heist Sputters

October 23, 1995|GREG MILLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

FULLERTON — Pulling off a robbery in broad daylight can be tricky business, but two suspected thieves learned Sunday that fixing a 1980 Ford Pinto can be even trickier.

In a comical end to a clumsy midday caper, one suspect was arrested while his partner fled on foot after their getaway car broke down--apparently not for the first time that day--about a mile from a Mervyn's Department Store they had just robbed, police said.

Jeffrey A. Berman, 40, of Anaheim was being held late Sunday in connection with the theft of 10 pairs of blue jeans valued at $240 from a Mervyn's in Fullerton, said Sgt. Craig Brower of the Fullerton Police Department.

Brower said police did not know the identity or whereabouts of the accomplice, who drove the problem-plagued getaway car. The two men tried to elude a Mervyn's shopper who followed them while giving police directions over his cellular telephone.

Mervyn's security guards arriving for work first spotted the pair working under the hood of an orange Pinto in the store parking lot, police said.

The guards became suspicious when one of the suspects entered Mervyn's and quietly began stacking jeans on the floor near the store's entrance, Brower said. Meanwhile, the other suspect pulled the Pinto into position outside.

Minutes later, police allege, Berman grabbed the stack of jeans, darted out of the store and jumped into the Pinto. One security guard grabbed Berman's shirt, police said, but let go as the car raced away.

The suspects might have escaped if it hadn't been for a Mervyn's customer who watched the incident as he was driving out of the store's parking lot in his pick-up. The witness, whom police would not identify, apparently did not plan to chase the suspects until he saw their car southbound on the Orange Freeway minutes after the theft occurred.

Using his cellular telephone, the man called 911 and gave police directions while he followed the suspects. "He said they were running red lights in an attempt to get away from him," Brower said.

The suspects headed west on the Riverside Freeway and exited at State College Boulevard. When their car stalled on Chapman Avenue near Cal State Fullerton, Brower said, "We were right around the corner."

Berman surrendered at the scene, but the other suspect fled into a nearby apartment complex. Police were still searching for him late Sunday. Berman refused to name the other suspect, Brower said. Police weren't sure who owned the Pinto, which had Washington state license plates.

Brower said "grab and run" crimes are becoming common these days, but that few chases end when the getaway car breaks down.

"Whatever they fixed in the parking lot, they didn't do a very good job," he said.

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