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3 Suspects Held in Foiled Buena Park Home Invasion

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Three gunmen held a household of five adults and 11 children hostage for hours in an apparent home invasion robbery that went awry late Wednesday, authorities said Thursday.

A police SWAT team arrested Alfredo Venegas Ramos Jr., 22, of South Gate; Christian Raymond Arguello, 22, of Huntington Beach, and Sergio Meza, 22, of Maywood, at about 11 p.m.

They were being held on suspicion of robbery, kidnapping, kidnapping for robbery, and residential burglary, said Lt. Robert Gonzales.

Intruders arrived about 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, but the alleged scheme quickly began unraveling when Jesse Blanco, who lives in the house on the 6300 block of San Lorenzo Drive, drove up with a friend and noticed something was wrong.

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The assailants took the friend inside, but Blanco was in the backseat and escaped notice, then dashed next door to call police, Sgt. Chris Bentley said.

Bentley said the suspects may be gang members, but there is no indication that they knew the residents of the house. They tied up the adults during part of the ordeal, police said.

“I’ve never seen them before,” Antonio Soto, 24, a salesman who has lived at the house for the last nine months, said when it was all over. “They just came in and took over. They asked for money. We don’t have money, not much. Maybe they were looking for somebody else.”

Soto and his three children were taken hostage along with his brother’s five kids and his visiting friend’s three kids.

Officers surrounding the home observed the suspects searching the inside of the residence, Gonzales said. The three tried to leave at one point, but ducked back inside when they heard a police helicopter overhead, he added.

The men could then be seen herding family members into the living room, according to police.

When the SWAT team arrived about 10:45 p.m., two men left the house and tried to drive away in a vehicle that was parked on the property. Officers stopped the men and determined that one was a suspect and the other a victim, police said.

Soon the other two suspects walked out of the home with the rest of the residents--two women, two men, and 11 children between the ages of 2 and 16.

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Gonzales said the suspects were attempting to blend in with the residents and escape detection.

Soto said he prodded the gunmen into leaving the house by pretending to sympathize with their predicament.

“I’m the one who sort of inspired them to get out,” he said. “I pretended to cooperate with them. I told them they weren’t going nowhere, but maybe they could get away if we went out and I told the cops they were my relatives. I told them we could all walk out with my kids and no one would shoot.”

The suspects were booked into the Buena Park City Jail on $100,000 bail each. No one was injured in the incident.

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Soto said he saw two handguns. Police suspected there might be a third weapon, so they searched the house after the suspects were taken into custody.

Police eventually found two additional handguns that the suspects allegedly ditched outside the residence.


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