Students at two Coachella Valley schools near Thermal were forced to shelter in place Tuesday while deputies searched for two wanted burglary suspects who allegedly fled from a stolen vehicle in the area.
Julio Adrian Diaz, 32, of Thermal and Ricardo Cervantes Garcia, 35, of Thousand Palms were eventually arrested in the desert area northeast of Desert Mirage High School, which is located at Avenue 66 and Tyler Street. They were booked into the John Benoit Detention Center in Indio on suspicion of possessing a stolen vehicle, among other offenses.
Deputies were sent to the area of Avenue 61 and Harrison Street at about 7:45 a.m. on a report of a burglary underway at a nursery, according to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
Sgt. Mariano Matos III said witnesses reported that multiple suspects stole items from the nursery before fleeing the scene in an older-model white pickup truck.
A California Highway Patrol helicopter spotted the suspect vehicle near Desert Mirage High School “where the suspects left the vehicle and fled into the desert on foot,” the sheriff’s department said.
Deputies set up a perimeter to search for the suspects, resulting the lockdown of both Desert Mirage High School and Toro Canyon Middle School.
Students were on both campuses during the incident, a Coachella Valley Unified School District spokesperson confirmed.
The students were participating in the district’s PowerUp Hubs hybrid-learning program. It is unclear how many students attended school Tuesday, but the roster at full capacity would have equaled 56 students if everyone attended school.
“PowerUp Hubs are small cohort groups (one per elementary, two per middle school and two per high school) consisting of 14 students per group. Students attend in-person instruction on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays,” Lissette Santiago said of the program.
The lockdown was lifted after the two suspects were located hiding in the field, sheriff’s officials said.
Booking records did not immediately reflect their arrests.
Garcia is a felon who is out on parole, authorities said.