Four teenage boys were arrested in connection with a string of robberies targeting pedestrians in San Bernardino and Riverside counties, authorities announced in a news conference on Tuesday, as the search for more potential victims continued.
The three 16-year-olds and one 13-year-old are suspected of taking part in more than 15 robberies over the last few weeks, according to investigators.
Riverside police stated in a previous news release that the boys allegedly borrowed their parents’ car to commit at least 10 robberies between July 23 and Aug. 6. However, officials explained on Tuesday that the number of robberies appeared to be greater.
Fontana police Officer Jay Sayegh said the department began receiving reports on Sept. 24 of pedestrians being robbed of their personal property by armed suspects, who were described as three black males and one white male.
The victims, including men and women, described the suspects’ vehicle as a black BMW.
Sayegh detailed seven robberies took place through Aug. 5. High-end purses, wallets, cellphones and a person's shoes were among the property stolen, police said.
Motorists also contacted authorities to report that suspects, believed to be the teen boys, pointed handguns at them, the officer explained. In one case, a driver claimed being the victim of an attempted robbery while in a parked vehicle.
During the course of the investigation, officials identified the four suspects and learned that both a black BMW and silver Infiniti were used during the crimes, police said.
Fontana police arrested three of the perpetrators on Aug. 7 and the fourth one two days later, according to the Riverside Police Department. Their names were not released because they are juveniles.
The weapons used during the robberies actually turned out to be airsoft guns, according to Sayegh, who explained that these can still pose a danger.
“If you look at these, this is what we’re faced with every single day,” he said. “We have split seconds to defend our lives, to defend the lives of the public and everybody else that we serve, and if you look at these there’s no way that anybody can determine that that was fake within a split second. I mean, it wasn’t until detectives had them in their hands and realized these aren’t real weapons.”
Fontana police Lt. Carlo Granillo stressed that these were serious incidents.
“Whether it is simulated weapons, altered weapons, replica weapons, these folks were genuinely victimized and thought they were going to be assaulted or worse,” he said. “So to be able to have a peaceful resolution to this, to get these individuals into custody despite their ages is an outstanding outcome with no officer-involved shooting, no use of force, no injury to additional victims and also the suspects.”
Investigators believe more robberies, which have gone unreported, may have occurred in other parts of the Inland Empire, including Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino and Montclair.
Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren joined law enforcement in their efforts to encourage other potential victims to come forward.
“If you see something, say something,” she said. “If you feel that this happened to you, or you know of other people, please come forward.”
Anyone who believes he or she may have been a victim or has information about this case was asked to contact the Fontana Police Department at 909-350-7740.