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VENTURA COUNTY FOCUS | WEST COUNTY / SANTA PAULA

3 Held as Suspects in Crime Spree

March 21, 1998|SCOTT HADLY

Authorities have arrested three Santa Paula men on suspicion of a crime spree that left four wounded.

The arrests were made in predawn raids Friday by 75 police officers and sheriff's deputies, Santa Paula Police Capt. Mark Hanson said.

Taken into custody on suspicion of robbery and attempted murder were Armando Villanueva, 21, and 19-year-old Angel Aguirre and Juan Mex Velasquez, Hanson said.

Officers from the Santa Paula, Ventura and Oxnard police departments, as well as deputies with the Ventura County Sheriff's Department, served search warrants on the men's homes about 4:30 a.m. The crime spree began with a drive-by shooting the night of March 6 and ended a little more than 24 hours later with an armed robbery of a Circle K in east Ventura.

The suspects, all said to be Santa Paula gang members, allegedly wounded three men in the drive-by shooting that started the spree.

The next night, detectives say, three shotgun-wielding men first robbed Harvard Liquors in Santa Paula, punching one of the clerks during the heist. About an hour later, the group robbed Sam's Liquor on Saviers Boulevard in Oxnard, according to Hanson.

A short time later in Saticoy, the trio spotted a member of a rival gang and shot him as he ran away, Hanson said. Less than 15 minutes later, the group robbed the Circle K store on Citrus Drive in Ventura, he said.

A surveillance camera captured the trio on film at the Circle K, Hanson said.

Detectives quickly connected the cases and got a search warrant, he said.

The interagency team of officers and deputies also conducted a probation search of the home of another Santa Paula gang member Friday morning, resulting in the arrest of Jacob Sebastian, 20, on suspicion of violating the terms of his probation by having stolen property, Hanson said. Sebastian is not believed to have been involved in the crime spree, Hanson said.

None of the wounded men suffered serious injury.

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