Two parolees suspected of helping carry out a spate of takeover-style armed robberies — including a brash heist during which the pistol-wielding thieves swerved a car through crowds of shoppers at Fashion Valley mall — are behind bars.
Robert Chavira, 40, and Ryan Alan McKnight, 34, were arrested during a traffic stop Wednesday night after leaving a hotel at Grape Street and Pacific Highway, near Lindbergh Field.
Both live in the San Diego area and are suspected of carrying out two holdups at jewelry shops in Palm Desert and San Jose in October, and another in Mission Valley two months ago, Riverside County sheriff’s Deputy Angel Ramos said.
Detectives believe the pair also might have taken part in a dramatic armed robbery at Barona Casino this week, according to San Diego police.
The San Diego jewelry heist took place late on the morning of Sept. 16, when three gun-toting bandits with ski masks over their faces drove a sedan across walkways at the Friars Road shopping center. People scrambled to get out of the way as the thieves veered across the mall in a white older-model Toyota Camry, honking the horn and ramming signs, police reported.
After the car stopped in front of a Ben Bridge store, two of the men got out, carrying pistols, and ransacked the business, smashing display cases and grabbing jewelry. They then got back into the vehicle and were driven away.
About 10 minutes later, officers found the car —which had been stolen earlier in the day — abandoned in a parking lot at a nearby Wells Fargo bank.
Despite the robbers’ reckless scheme for getting into and out of the mall, no injuries resulted, according to police.
The third perpetrator of the heist remains at large, Ramos said.
Following the arrests of Chavira and McKnight, detectives uncovered clues suggesting that they had taken part in Wednesday morning’s Lakeside-area casino heist, SDPD public-affairs Lt. Andra Brown said. She declined to elaborate on that evidence.
During that crime, four men dressed in black and armed with pistols and rifles made a failed attempt to steal a promotional booth filled with cash from the gaming hall shortly before 2:30 a.m., firing several shots in the process, authorities said.
The gunmen fled with a small amount of cash in a sport utility vehicle, according to sheriff’s Lt. Hank Turner. The SUV was found abandoned about a mile away, on Wildcat Canyon Road, with the stolen money still inside it, Turner said.