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Woman Robbed at Gunpoint; 1 Arrested

Violence: Deputies find suspect after hours-long search, but were still looking for alleged accomplice in Canyon Country late Thursday.

July 13, 2001|RICHARD FAUSSET and MARTHA A. WILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies searched Thursday night for a man who allegedly helped his partner rob a woman outside a Valencia bank, then disappeared on foot after abandoning his getaway car, a department spokesman said.

Lancaster resident Mireyah Hernandez suffered minor injuries when she was pistol-whipped by a man who robbed her at gunpoint, authorities said.

The alleged gunman was apprehended after an hours-long manhunt Thursday in the partly built housing complex of Fair Oaks Ranch in Canyon Country.

The suspect, 20-year-old Theodore Pacheco of Los Angeles, was found at 5:20 p.m., hiding in the attic of a house in the 26700 block of Cardinal Drive, Sheriff's Sgt. Brenda P. Cambra said.

He was tracked down by K-9 units and deputies from the department's SWAT-like Special Enforcement Bureau, who used a Taser gun to take him into custody, they said.

Pacheco was booked on suspicion of robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and burglary. His bail was set at $250,000.

At least 45 officers swarmed suburban Canyon Country for most of the afternoon as they searched for the two men. The pair had taken about $5,000, which had not been recovered by Thursday night, deputies said.

The incident began around 10:45 a.m. when an armed robber confronted Hernandez at gunpoint in the parking lot of the Bank of America branch at Valencia Boulevard and Citrus Street, said Sheriff's Lt. Larry Gump.

She was about to make a money drop at the bank for her employer when the man pistol-whipped her, gashing her head, and took the bag of money she was carrying, Gump said.

Hernandez was taken to Henry Mayo Newhall Community Hospital, where she was treated for minor head injuries and then released.

The gunman and an accomplice fled in a black Acura, but were spotted a short time later on the Golden State Freeway by a sheriff's patrol unit, Gump said. After a brief pursuit, the suspects stopped the car near Oakmont and Jason drives.

The driver ran west. Pacheco ran east, across the freeway, where he was eventually stopped by a plainclothes deputy at Via Princessa and Lost Canyon Road, inside the Fair Oaks Ranch development.

The detective told Pacheco to lie on the ground. He initially complied, but got up and fled moments later, said sheriff's spokesman Darren D. Harris.

Authorities caught him again and questioned him about his alleged accomplice, who was last seen fleeing into a large condominium complex that Gump said was too large to search unit by unit.

The missing suspect may have been armed, authorities said, and was described as Latino, 19-20 years old, medium build, with a shaved head and wearing baggy jeans, a T-shirt and plaid flannel shirt. He was last seen near Oakmont and Jason drives, they said.

The robbery disturbed the suburban rhythms of one of the busiest parts of town, across the street from Santa Clarita City Hall and the Valencia Town Center mall and just steps away from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Santa Clarita station.

Customers at the busy bank branch Thursday afternoon were shocked to learn of the holdup.

"Here? No way. The sheriff's station is right down there," said Jackie Steele, 38, of Valencia, as she prepared to use the bank's automated teller machine. "I guess something like this really can happen anywhere."

In a related incident a deputy accidentally discharged his gun while getting out of a sheriff's cruiser, Gump said.

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Times staff writers Andrew Blankstein and Carol Chambers contributed to this story.

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