ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. (KTLA) – Four people who allegedly ransacked a Macy’s store in Southern California were arrested after calling a rideshare driver to pick them up on Tuesday, authorities said.
The suspects were identified as Louie Velasco of South Gate, Jocelyn Mendoza of Simi Valley, and Sherry Rogers and Marlon Deleon, both from Los Angeles.
At around 12 p.m., the thieves were seen allegedly grabbing merchandise from the Macy’s department store at the Brea Mall in Brea, California, police said. One suspect had prompted suspicion from police earlier in the day and backup was called, unbeknownst to the thieves.
As the suspects exited the store to a getaway vehicle, patrol cars had already been waiting outside. The suspects sped away from the parking lot, leading officers on a high-speed pursuit.
Police said they drove through the streets recklessly and “our officers were not able to keep up.”
The suspects eventually stopped near Laurel Elementary School, which prompted a lockdown. Thinking they had lost the police, the suspects ditched their vehicle before running into a dentist’s office across the street to hide.
That’s when the suspects decided to order a rideshare driver to pick them up, police said.
Once inside the dentist’s office, victims said the thieves pretended to have a medical emergency, likely to buy time before the driver’s arrival.
“We were having lunch and they came in the front door and this woman acted like she was having a heart attack,” said Dr. Brooks Larson, the dentist at the office.
“I responded, going through my emergency protocols,” he recalled. “We thought we were treating a heart attack victim but eventually she started feeling better and said, ‘Oh, I feel much better,’ and jumped out and ran out the front door.”
The suspects hopped into the waiting rideshare car, but didn’t get far as officers quickly surrounded the vehicle.
Everyone was taken into custody before authorities later discovered the rideshare driver was not involved in the theft.
Police said rideshare drivers getting unknowingly roped into criminal schemes happens more often than people might think.
“It’s not an uncommon thing for us to have that and for rideshare drivers to go through that,” said Lt. Chris Harvey with the Brea police. “It’s never a pleasant experience, obviously, to have the police detain you at gunpoint and think you are a suspect of something when you’re not.”
The rideshare driver was later released.
The suspects were taken into custody and booked on multiple charges including theft, conspiracy and evading police.
Earlier in the day, around the same time as the Macy’s theft, police also received a call reporting an armed robbery of a nearby Wells Fargo bank. Arriving officers, however, couldn’t locate a victim.
Authorities believe the fabricated call was an effort to draw officers away from the mall at the time.