Two suspects were arrested Friday in connection with a spree of 7-Eleven store robberies across the Southland in which two people were killed and three others injured, and authorities said at least one of the men may be tied to a killing in Los Angeles two days earlier.
Malike Patt, 20, and Jason Payne, 44, both of Los Angeles, were arrested about 1:10 p.m. in the 1900 block of West 23rd Street in Los Angeles, authorities said at a news conference in Santa Ana. Patt is considered the main suspect seen in widely circulated surveillance video photos from some of the robberies.
Patt was being held in the Santa Ana jail and Payne was taken to a Los Angeles-area hospital to be treated for minor injuries sustained while being arrested, Santa Ana police Chief David Valentin said.
In addition to the convenience store heists in San Bernardino, Riverside and Orange counties, Los Angeles police Deputy Chief Alan Hamilton said the July 9 slaying of an unidentified transient in the 16100 block of Parthenia Street in the North Hills area is believed to be tied to at least one of the suspects. The killing occurred about 200 yards away from a 7-Eleven store that was robbed that same day.
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said he planned on filing murder charges next week stemming from shootings that occurred during the robbery spree in Brea and Santa Ana on Monday. He said Patt will be charged in a way that will lead to no bail.
Spitzer said any trial will be held in one county for all of the alleged crimes. He said he would discuss the best way to handle it with fellow top prosecutors in Riverside, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.
The 7-Eleven company this week offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspect in the robberies and killings. It was unclear if anyone will be eligible to claim the reward.
The rash of violence — carried out on July 11, or 7-11 — prompted the 7-Eleven corporation to recommend that Los Angeles-area stores temporarily close their doors Monday night and again on Tuesday night, and some stores also appeared to be close early on Wednesday.
The first 7-Eleven holdup in the crime spree occurred in Ontario. Police said just after midnight Monday, the 7-Eleven at 636 N. Vine Ave. was robbed. The suspect held up the store with a handgun, but no shots were fired and no one was injured.
At 1:35 a.m. Monday, the 7-Eleven store at 2410 W. Arrow Route in Upland was robbed, police said.
At 1:50 a.m., a 7-Eleven store at 5102 La Sierra Ave. in Riverside was robbed by a gunman. That robbery escalated, with the suspect shooting a customer, who was hospitalized in what was described as grave condition. Riverside police Officer Ryan Railsback said the victim has shown “slight improvement, but is still very critical.”
Minutes after 3 a.m., a Yum Yum Donuts at 2441 N. Tustin St. in Santa Ana was robbed, Valentin said.
About 20 minutes later, 24-year-old Matthew Rule of Santa Ana was fatally shot outside the 7-Eleven store at 302 E. 17th St. in Santa Ana. Officers found Rule in the parking lot with a gunshot wound to the upper body, Santa Ana Police Department Sgt. Maria Lopez said. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene.
Valentin said Rule was not the primary target of the shooter. He said the gunman was targeting someone else, but Rule “stepped in” to “redirect” the robber and was shot.
Brea police said they responded at 4:17 a.m. Monday to the 7-Eleven store at 109 W. Lambert Road and found a male store clerk fatally shot in what officers determined to be a robbery. The clerk was later identified as 40-year-old Matthew Hirsch, who died at the scene, police said.
About a half-hour later, the 7-Eleven store at 381 E. Whittier Blvd. in La Habra was robbed, and two people were shot, according to La Habra police Sgt. Eric Roy. Both victims were taken to a hospital, and both were expected to survive. Police said the victims were a clerk and a customer.
Based on surveillance images, police said they were able to link the same suspect to all of the heists.
The Los Angeles Police Department announced Tuesday afternoon that detectives were investigating a similar string of robberies at two convenience stores and two doughnut shops within the LAPD’s Devonshire Division in the San Fernando Valley that occurred between 3:55 and 5:30 a.m. July 9. That string included the 7-Eleven store that was robbed near the location of the fatal shooting that Hamilton said was linked to the other convenience store crimes.
Other businesses that were robbed were located in the 16000 block of Nordhoff Street, the 16000 block of Devonshire Street and the 16000 block of San Fernando Mission Boulevard. No injuries were reported in any of the robberies, but the suspect was armed with a handgun, police said.
Hamilton said Friday investigators believe that “a number of crimes” in the Los Angeles area will eventually be linked to the suspect in the July 9 fatal shooting.
Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairman Doug Chaffee said the board on Tuesday will set up a fund to benefit the victims of the crime spree.
“We want to be certain those injured are taken care of,” Chaffee said.
Santa Ana Mayor Vicente Sarmieno said the shootings “chilled” the community because of their “depravity and randomness.” He praised law enforcement for the quick arrests.
“Sometimes these things are never solved, but this happened in five days,” Sarmiento said.
Brea Police Chief Adam Hawley said, “These crimes have undeniably broken our hearts.”
Spitzer called the shootings a “reign of terror.”