What was initially reported as a home invasion and kidnapping in Banning led to the arrest of three teens — including one who was allegedly the kidnapping victim — on felony charges in connection with several violent incidents in the San Gorgonio Pass area, police said Friday.
Around 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday, a caller in the 900 block of East Hoffer Street in Banning dialed 911, then hung up, according to the Banning Police Department.
Officers showed up at the home and found a person who said he had been held at gunpoint by two suspects for several minutes inside his home, police said. The person told officers his friend, 19-year-old Nahemiah Coles, had been inside the home and was taken by the two suspects.
Detectives began investigating and were able to identify Jacob Valdepena and Jose Verdusco Jr., both 19-year-olds from Banning, as the two suspects in the home invasion and alleged kidnapping. They also were able to identify the vehicle believed to have been used by the two suspects, and discovered that the two are the same suspects reported in several crimes, including multiple shootings in Banning, over a month-long period, police said.
Banning police warned local law enforcement agencies to be on the lookout for the suspects and their vehicle.
Police also found a gun safe elsewhere in Banning that had been taken from the residence during the home invasion — the suspects were apparently unable to open it.
Just a few hours after the home invasion, around 1 a.m. on Aug. 15, police were called to a report of an armed robbery in progress at an Arco AM-PM in the 700 block of East Ramsey Street in Banning.
The suspects had left before officers arrived at the scene, but police were able to obtain video surveillance from the convenience store and found that the suspects and vehicle were the same ones involved in the home invasion, police said.
Detectives also identified Coles, the alleged kidnapping victim, as a willing participant in the armed robbery, as well as another one that was reported 10 minutes earlier in Beaumont.
Around 4 a.m. that morning, police received information that Coles had been assaulted in Cabazon, and he was located a short time later in the Whitewater area.
Coles apparently had been assaulted by Verdusco during an argument and suffered injuries — though it’s still believed he willingly participated in the robberies. Coles was arrested and taken into custody on suspicion of armed robbery and criminal conspiracy.
A search warrant was later served by a Riverside County Sheriff’s Department SWAT team around 2:30 p.m. that day at Verdusco’s residence in the 500 block of South Hargrave Street in Banning. Verdusco was arrested and taken into custody on suspicion of home invasion, armed robbery, criminal conspiracy and attempted murder.
A half-hour after that, Morongo Tribal Police spotted the suspect vehicle driving near the intersection of Hathaway Street and Morongo Road in Banning and conducted a traffic stop, Banning police said.
Valdepena was found inside the car and was arrested on suspicion of the same charges as Verdusco. There were also two 16-year-old juveniles in the car. One was arrested on suspicion of being in possession of a firearm, and the other was released to family.
Valdepena and Verdusco were both being held without bail at the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility in Banning Friday afternoon. Coles was being held at the same facility in lieu of $35,000 bail.
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