A man and woman accused of robbing a Riverside senior in a strip mall parking lot and shooting at her and her son when they tried to resist pleaded not guilty Friday to armed robbery and other charges.

Lanika Shantel Williams, 32, of Los Angeles and Jermaine Lavelle Wheeler, 34, of Moreno Valley were arrested Monday after the alleged holdup at the Canyon Crest Towne Center, near Canyon Crest Drive and Central Avenue.

Along with armed robbery, both defendants are charged with two counts of assault with a firearm, and one count each of illegal possession of a gun, identity theft and carrying a loaded firearm in public without a permit.

They were jointly arraigned before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Gail O’Rane, who scheduled a felony settlement conference for June 2 at the Riverside Hall of Justice and ordered each defendant held in lieu of $135,000 bail.

Williams is being held at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside, and Wheeler at the Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta.

According to Riverside police Officer Ryan Railsback, Williams and Wheeler were cruising the parking lot of the mall in a BMW X5 about 4:15 p.m. Monday when they allegedly pulled alongside the senior and her adult son, whose names were withheld, as they were walking to their vehicle.

Railsback alleged that Williams got out of the car and ordered the woman to hand over her purse.

“Williams pulled the purse from the victim, who then tried to fight off Williams,” the police spokesman alleged. “The victim’s son also tried pulling the purse from Williams’ grasp, when she produced a black revolver and fired one shot at their heads, narrowly missing both victims.”

The woman let go of her purse, and Williams jumped back into the vehicle, at which point Wheeler stomped on the accelerator, and the defendants sped away, Railsback alleged.

The parking lot has a network of security surveillance cameras, and investigators obtained images of the BMW and defendants, which they used to develop leads. Riverside County Gang Impact Team personnel assisted with tracking the pair down to a residence in the area of Indian Street and Alessandro Boulevard in Moreno Valley, Railsback said.

He said they were spotted about 6 p.m. sitting in the same vehicle, where Williams was taken into custody without incident. Wheeler allegedly tried to run but was quickly apprehended, according to Railsback.

The purse and gun were seized from the car, he said.

Court records show Wheeler has a prior misdemeanor conviction for battery. No information was available on Williams.

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