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Members of the Melrose Action Neighborhood Watch sprung into action last Sunday to help police capture two robbery suspects who were targeting victims in the Melrose District. A third suspect, described as an African American male juvenile, fled the scene and remains at large.
The two juvenile suspects who were arrested were riding skateboards and allegedly snatched a purse at approximately 7:20 p.m. from a female victim who was sitting on the patio of a restaurant near Sierra Bonita and Melrose avenues. Witnesses gave chase as the suspects fled up Gardner Street. Peter Nichols, a co-founder of the Melrose Action Neighborhood Watch, said he and a friend were walking on Gardner Street when they heard a commotion and saw the suspects running towards them. As Nichols called 911, his friend tried to corner and stop the suspects. The chase continued for a couple of blocks until citizens grabbed the pair near Waring and Fuller avenues and held them until police arrived. Authorities said they are 16 years old.
“The neighbors worked independently … to give chase in what could have been a dangerous situation,” Nichols said. “It happened so fast, but it was people’s ability to make split second decisions in what could have been a dangerous situation. These guys could have been armed with a knife or a gun, but they did it without hesitation.”
Capt. Lillian Carranza, with the Los Angeles Police Department’s Wilshire Division, said the suspects live in the Wilshire area and were likely riding around looking for opportunities to steal property. After officers brought the suspects to the Wilshire Community Police Station for booking, investigators learned that they were allegedly involved in at least one additional robbery last Sunday that occurred outside the Wilshire Crest Hotel near Crescent Heights Boulevard and Orange Street.
“While they were at the station being booked, there were two other officers who were investigating a report of a robbery at the Wilshire Crest Hotel, and realized they matched the description,” Carranza said. “[In that incident] one of the suspects reached over a fence and grabbed a phone, and when the victim tried to retrieve their property, one of the suspects said, ‘Back up,’ and used the skateboard as a weapon.”
Carranza said the victim of the robbery at the hotel positively identified the two suspects. They were booked for one count of robbery and one count of grand theft, and were released to their parents. Investigators will be forwarding the case to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office for prosecution. Detectives are also investigating whether the suspects may have been involved in additional crimes.
Carranza commended the residents for helping capture the suspects. However, she said police do not advocate that people pursue or try to apprehend suspects.
“It was great partnership between police and the community. But my recommendation is to be the best witness you can be,” she said. “You don’t know if they could be armed with a knife or something. It’s best to get as much information as you can and let the police deal with the suspects.”
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