Investigators from multiple Orange County law enforcement agencies met Wednesday to discuss evidence from 26 robberies, most of which occurred at fast-food restaurants in their jurisdiction, and how to proceed against a suspect who’s behind bars in Riverside, where he’s accused of committing two restaurant heists.

Jose Felipe Fernandez, 28, was charged Monday with robbing a Carl’s Jr. restaurant on July 27 and a Pizza Hut on July 20, both in Riverside, and evading police in a car chase that ended in a fiery crash which triggered a brush fire.

Fernandez has prior convictions for assault with a semiautomatic weapon in April 2006 in San Joaquin County, according to court records.

Garden Grove police had not wanted to release Fernandez’s name because detectives are still showing photo lineups to witnesses and don’t want the suspect’s identity to affect the witness identifications.

A suspect who was in the car with Fernandez when police gave chase following the July 27 robbery was arrested this past weekend, but has since posted bail, said Riverside police Officer Ryan Railsback. He said charges have not yet been filed against that suspect, whose name was withheld.

Investigators believe Fernandez is linked to 23 armed robberies in Orange County — with a half-dozen of those in Westminster — plus the two in Riverside and one in Hawaiian Gardens, in Los Angeles County.

Fernandez, who was arrested last Thursday, allegedly robbed a Carl’s Jr. in the area of Magnolia Avenue and Ross Street around 4 that afternoon. According to police, the suspect fled with his accomplice immediately after the holdup, but witnesses provided 911 dispatchers with a description of the getaway car, which was spotted minutes later by a patrol officer.

The patrolman made a traffic stop and the driver initially complied with his commands, but then sped away eastbound with the officer in pursuit, Railsback said.

The chase eventually reached the Mission Grove area of the city, where the suspect ended up on two-lane roads running through hills, losing control on a dead-end and plummeting into the gully, where the vehicle caught fire. The suspect attempted to flee on foot but was quickly apprehended.

The crash triggered a small brush fire that briefly threatened several homes in the area of Mountain House and Kingdom drives before being fully contained around 5:15 p.m., according to the Riverside Fire Department.

According to Garden Grove police Lt. Carl Whitney, the suspect in the Riverside robbery was wearing a scarf around his neck, possibly to hide a neck tattoo like the one seen on the Orange County robbery suspect.

Fernandez is next due in court in Riverside County on Aug. 9, according to John Hall, a spokesman for the Riverside District Attorney’s Office.

Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said the suspect has been linked to at least three armed robberies in that city, most recently at a Jack in the Box at 820 N. Harbor Blvd. about 8:30 p.m. July 24. He donned a wig to hold up an El Pollo Loco at 101 S. Harbor Blvd., and also robbed a McDonald’s at 666 S. Harbor Blvd. in heists on July 17 and 18, Bertagna said.

In Orange, a Del Taco restaurant at 1301 E. Katella Ave. was robbed about 9:15 p.m. July 20

The suspect is also suspected of a hold-up at a Chipotle restaurant in Huntington Beach about 9:40 p.m. July 24, and a McDonald’s in Costa Mesa on July 25.

–City News Service

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