In 2017, the armed robberies of two local businesses shook the Fremont community.
While the perpetrators were able to escape both the Tienda Mexicana Guerrero grocery store and First State Bank’s Military Avenue branch with cash in hand, they couldn’t escape the long arm of the law as authorities apprehended suspects in each incident.
The pair of robberies, and subsequent apprehension of suspects, land at the Tribune’s No. 2 spot for the Top 10 Stories of 2017.
In February an armed robbery at Tienda Mexicana Guerrero grocery store, and an attempted theft of an ATM in North Bend, would lead local authorities on an investigation that would eventually result in the identification and arrest of individuals wanted for 14 armed robberies over a 15 month period in California where more than $250,000 was taken.
On February 22, 2017 at approximately 9:30 p.m., Tienda Mexicana Guerrero grocery store was robbed by two heavily armed masked men with a third individual as a getaway driver. The trio got away with a large amount of cash.
“These guys were pros at this, they were out of the store in less than 2 minutes,” Fremont Police Chief Jeff Elliott said in a previous interview with the Tribune. “It appears that it was rehearsed, they got there and they then fled in one vehicle, dumped that and had another vehicle waiting. They had been around the block and knew where they were going with this and they obviously had committed numerous robberies in California as well.”
After responding to the scene and beginning investigation, officers learned that the vehicle used by the suspects was a stolen vehicle from Fremont. Officers found the vehicle abandoned approximately two blocks away from the robbery scene, where the suspects fled in a different vehicle. The suspects were also involved in another vehicle theft on that same day.
“With one of the stolen vehicles the entire theft was caught on camera and I think they popped the lock, popped the steering wheel, got the thing started and out of the parking lot in under 45 seconds,” FPD Detective Aaron Howe said.
Throughout the investigation, Detective Matt Hultquist and Howe were able to determine that the robbery and both stolen vehicles were related. The detectives were able to obtain video surveillance which provided leads to help identify the three suspects.
Once the detectives had identified the suspects they found that all three were from California. This prompted Fremont Detectives to contact police officers in California who stated they had experienced similar robberies in Tulare County, California.
Tulare County authorities were able to link the three suspects from the Fremont robbery to a string of robberies in their jurisdiction from information provided by Fremont Police Detectives.
Authorities from California came to Fremont in June and worked with FPD Detectives and DCSO’s Craig Harbaugh on the case and were able to further develop information on the three suspects.
“Had it not been for these three guys there would have been no arrests in California and they would have a number of unsolved armed robberies and our robbery would not have been solved,” Elliott said of Hultquist, Howe, and Harbaugh. “This was extraordinary police work by these three detectives, they did a great job and cleared up a number of cases.”
The Fremont Police Department and The Dodge County Sheriff’s Office were able to obtain arrest warrants for Javier Beltran Alonzo, Homero Palomino Ontiveros, and Ulises Medina all of California, in connection to the armed robbery of Tienda Mexicana Guerrero as well as the attempted ATM theft in North Bend. The suspects also had active arrest warrants in connection to 14 armed robberies throughout Tulare County, California.
The joint investigation led to the arrest of Beltran Alonzo by Tulare County authorities in California on July 26, and subsequent arrest of Medina, while Palomino Ontiveros currently remains at large and is considered armed and dangerous.
In November, local authorities again found themselves investigating a robbery but this time the incident took place at First State Bank, at 1965 East Military Avenue, in Fremont.
According to information released by the Fremont Police Department, it was reported that several armed individuals entered the bank and took money from the cashier drawers and bank vault at approximately 10:35 a.m on November 15th.
The men fled the bank with an undisclosed amount of money and no bank employees or customers were injured during the robbery.
Fremont Police reported that, following the robbery, a witness saw the suspects drive away from the area in a vehicle described as a white colored sport utility vehicle. Shortly after, an FPD Lieutenant saw a vehicle matching that description which was occupied by at least three individuals driving south on Highway 275 toward Omaha.
A description of the vehicle and its direction of travel was dispatched to the Nebraska State Patrol, which led to an attempt by a Nebraska State Patrol officer to stop the vehicle on Dodge Street near Elkhorn.
Following a short pursuit that ended near Village Pointe at 168th and Dodge Streets in Omaha, three individuals were placed into custody by members of the Nebraska State Patrol.
“The three suspects were apprehended due to the great work of the State Patrol, and they did a fantastic job of bringing those guys into custody,” Huston Pullen, public affairs officer with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said.
The suspects were identified as Warren D. Vasser, 44 years old, of Council Bluffs, IA, Warren D. Copeland, 27, of Omaha, and Angelo C. Douglas, 25, of Omaha. All three men were indicted by a Grand Jury on charges of robbery, use of a weapon to commit a felony, possession of stolen property, and possession of a deadly weapon by a prohibited person.