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Robbery spree ends in arrest for threesome

Two men and a woman were arrested Monday afternoon on charges they beat and robbed an ice cream vendor and took purses from two women at a bus stop.

Lt. Matt Williams of the Merced Police Department said Deelisia Avila and Anthony Burkhart, both 20, and Darquan Slaughter, 21, all of Merced, were apprehended after the 1 p.m. robberies at Seventh and V streets and the 200 block of Q Street.

Lazaro Aquilino, the ice cream vendor, was treated for head injuries and released from the Community Campus of Mercy Medical Center Merced. He was struck twice and knocked down by an aluminum baseball bat wielded by Avila, Williams said.

"It's beyond taking money from someone," Cmdr. Floyd Higdon said. "To hit someone twice with a baseball bat, that's a nasty attack. Brazen is a good word for it."

Avila, Burkhart and Slaughter, charged with armed robbery and strong-armed robbery, remained in Merced County Jail on Monday night in lieu of $160,000 bail each, according to a correctional official.

Williams said officers were called to Seventh and V streets about 1 p.m. to investigate an armed robbery. Minutes later dispatchers received another call of a robbery only blocks away. Several officers converged in the South Merced neighborhood and began combing the area.

Officer Jesse Padgett arrived at Seventh and V streets where he found Aquilino suffering from a serious head wound. Aquilino tried to give officers information about the pair of suspects who just robbed him, but was nearly incoherent from the blow to the head he received from a baseball bat.

Witnesses who came to Aquilino's aid gave officers a good description of the attackers, Williams said. Meanwhile Officer Vance Walker was dispatched to a bus stop in the 200 block of Q Street to assist two women who had just been robbed.

Tasha Johnson, 24, and Margaret Barriga, both of Merced, were waiting at the bus stop when a man, later identified as Burkhart, approached them. Burkhart got out of a black Mitsubishi and walked up to the two women and forcefully took their purses from them. One of the victims fought for her purse while the other called 911 on her cell phone.

"As the suspect left the area with his loot, the victims were busy giving the police accurate descriptions of the suspects, their vehicle and their direction of travel," Williams said.

Officer Ryan King was searching the area when he spotted a suspicious black Mitsubishi parked at South M Street and John Court. Three people matching the descriptions given by the victims were near the vehicle and one of them had a baseball bat.

Witnesses said Avila snuck up behind Aquilino with a baseball bat as Slaughter distracted him, acting as if he wanted to buy an ice cream. As soon as Slaughter distracted Aquilino, Avina hit him in the head with a full-on swing of the aluminum bat, Williams said.

Aquilino immediately hit the ground and was already unconscious as Avila delivered another blow to the head with the bat. Witnesses said that Avila and Slaughter calmly walked away after taking an undisclosed amount of cash from Aquilino.

Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2485 or