Police believe they thwarted a robbery with the arrest of two teens parked outside a convenience store early Sunday morning.
“We strongly believe the suspects were planning a robbery but, thankfully, the clerk called 911 and our officers were able to intervene before the suspects entered the store,” said Cmdr. Ray Reyna Jr.
The Los Banos Police Department responded to the convenience store in the 1700 block of East Pacheco Boulevard at 1:45 a.m. after receiving a report of a suspicious vehicle.
Police said a store clerk contacted them after a customer remarked that some people parked behind the store were behaving strangely. The clerk was afraid the store was going to be robbed, police said.
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Officer Fiafaimane Leao found a 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe, with paper license plates, parked behind the store. The vehicle was occupied by three teenagers - two 16-year-olds and a 19-year-old.
While Leao spoke with the teens, he could smell a strong odor of marijuana coming from inside the car, police said.
A records check of the vehicle identification number indicated the vehicle was stolen in Oakland on Dec. 1. Leao removed the teens and started searching the vehicle. He reportedly found a replica firearm concealed in one of the juvenile’s socks and methamphetamine in another teen’s possession.
One teen allegedly attempted to conceal his identity by providing a false name.
Justin Luster, 19, of Richmond was arrested on suspicion of possession of stolen property, possession of a controlled substance, providing false information to a police officer and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He is in custody at Los Banos Jail pending $25,000 bail.
The juvenile alleged to have been found in possession of the replica firearm was booked into Merced County Juvenile Hall for suspicion of possession of stolen property. The third teenager was released to the custody of his family.