June 2, 2014

Sheriff’s captain thwarts gas station robbery in Atwater

An Atwater gas station employee was dragged by a vehicle over the weekend trying to stop a robbery, the Atwater Police Department reported.

A clerk at an Atwater gas station was dragged by a vehicle over the weekend as she tried to stop a robbery, Atwater police reported.

A Merced County sheriff’s captain who stopped for a cup of coffee saw the incident and captured the suspects, two women, a man and a juvenile, at gunpoint moments later.

The 46-year-old female clerk suffered minor scrapes and bruises Friday night but declined medical treatment at the scene, Lt. Samuel Joseph said.

The clerk spotted two people running through the store with a 12-pack of Corona and an 18-pack of Budweiser beer. She tried to lock the store’s front door, but they escaped. The clerk chased the robbers to their car and tried to snatch the keys from the ignition, police said.

The car, a blue 2001 Nissan Maxima, pulled away, dragging the clerk, Joseph said.

Merced County sheriff’s Capt. B.J. Jones was on his way to the scene of a homicide just before midnight Friday. He pulled into the Chevron station at 1500 Sycamore Ave., and apparently saw the employee and thieves struggling. Realizing it was robbery in progress, Jones activated his emergency lights and went to intervene, but the employee was being dragged as she hung on to the driver’s side of the suspected getaway vehicle, he said.

“She got disengaged from the vehicle near the gas pumps and the car took off,” Jones said.

Jones called for an ambulance, then chased the vehicle a short distance from the gas station to another convenience store on the other side of the overpass, where he and other law officers took the robbers into custody.

Jones downplayed his role in the arrests on Monday.

“It was just being in the right place at the right time, I guess,” he said.

Police arrested suspects Bevahja Bland, Ariana Rubio and the driver, Evelina Rodriguez, all 18, and a female juvenile whose age could not be confirmed Monday. They were booked at Merced County jail and juvenile hall on a variety of allegations ranging from assault with a deadly weapon and robbery to burglary, curfew violations and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

“We’re very grateful Capt. Jones was there and appreciate that he was able to take control of the situation,” Joseph said.

Jonesgot his cup of coffee when he met with investigators a short time later.

The incident was one of two robberies reported over the weekend in Atwater.

A 19-year-old gang member was beaten and robbed by three suspected rival gang members Sunday afternoon in an alley on Bellevue Road, police said.

The three robbers took the victim’s cellphone after the assault. They are described only as Latino men wearing dark clothing. One was seen wearing a red baseball-style cap with a diamond printed on it, police said.

The victim, whose name is being withheld for safety reasons, suffered minor injuries to his head and body but declined medical treatment at the scene.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Atwater Police Department at (209) 385-6396. Callers may remain anonymous.

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