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3 Arrested in String of Robberies in Upscale Areas

Times Staff Writer

Three suspects were in custody Monday in connection with a monthlong spree of robberies in which masked men used stun guns on Villa Park and Lemon Heights residents before fleeing with jewelry, autos and cash totaling more than $250,000.

Rickey Lamon Brown, 23, of Fontana in San Bernardino County was arrested early Saturday morning in Fontana while driving a stolen car, leading officials to believe that he may have been preparing to commit a break-in, Orange County Sheriff Brad Gates said Monday at a press conference.

Investigators believe that robbers used a stolen car in each of the five robberies between Sept. 2 and Oct. 2, Gates said.

Two other suspects, Keith Von Cole, 22, and a 17-year-old youth, both of West Covina, were arrested Monday at their homes after Orange County Superior Court Judge John J. Ryan signed search warrants for the residences of all three suspects.

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One Held in L.A. County

The three were arrested on suspicion of robbery, burglary, kidnaping, assault with a deadly weapon and possession of stolen property, officials said. Brown was being held in Los Angeles County Jail, Cole was being held at Orange County Jail and the teen-ager, whose name was not released because of his age, was being held in Orange County Juvenile Hall.

No bond had been set for any of the suspects, authorities said.

Evidence found in searches of the suspects’ homes--a silver Minnie Mouse pin, pearl and diamond earrings, golf clubs and other items--link them with the break-ins, Gates said.

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In addition, several stun guns were found in the searches, and Brown was carrying a handgun when arrested, Gates said.

Brown had been “our prime suspect” before his arrest by Fontana police, said Lt. Richard J. Olson, spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. He declined to elaborate.

Gates refused to say whether Brown provided information that led police to Cole and the third suspect. He credited “assistance from citizens” with helping to crack the case but refused to be specific.

The robberies apparently were random, Gates said. In all but one case, thieves entered the houses through open or unlocked windows and doors, targeting homes in affluent areas where victims were home. In each case, thieves wore ski masks or surgical masks, dark clothes and gloves and menaced victims with handguns.

Victims in three of the break-ins were shocked with stun guns, compact devices that deliver painful electric shocks and can be bought over the counter without identification. None of the victims needed medical treatment, police said.

“It’s about like sticking your finger in a 110-volt socket,” Gates said of a stun gun’s shock. “This is a legal item that can be purchased by just about anybody.”

The stun guns are often sold as self-defense weapons, he said.

Thieves escaped with $45,000 in cash and goods in a Sept. 23 burglary at a house in the 1000 block of Park Skyline Road in Lemon Heights, near Tustin, after surprising a husband and wife and four small children as they watched TV. Robbers shocked both the husband and the wife before fleeing, authorities said.

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One victim was shocked with a stun gun in a break-in Oct. 2, in which six family members 2 to 82 years old were ordered to lie face down on the living room floor while robbers ransacked the house in the 10000 block of Old Ranch Circle in Villa Park. Property valued at $67,000, including two handguns, a rifle and a shotgun and a 1987 Mercedes-Benz 420 SEC were stolen.

Valuables worth $129,000 were taken in another break-in at a house in the 9000 block of Villa Isle Drive in Villa Park on Sept. 15. The residents were not shocked. A husband and wife were shocked with stun guns in a Sept. 21 break-in at a house in the 9000 block of Hunting Circle in Villa Park. A 1985 Chevrolet Blazer and goods valued at $10,000 were stolen.

On Sept. 2, one gunman stole $1,800 in cash and jewelry from a couple after following them to the porch of their home in the 11000 block of Skyline Drive in Lemon Heights.


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