Two brothers accused of confronting a Corona homeowner with a gun while trying to stealing parts from his car, and at one point firing a random shot to intimidate him, were charged Thursday with armed robbery and other offenses.
Jacobo Eliseo Lopez, 21, and Ricky Anthony Lopez, 19, both of Yucaipa, were arrested Tuesday following a Corona Police Department investigation.
Ricky Lopez is charged only with robbery. But his older sibling is additionally charged with gun assault and reckless discharge of a firearm.
The brothers pleaded not guilty during a joint arraignment before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Gail O’Rane, who scheduled a felony settlement conference for Feb. 28 at the Riverside Hall of Justice.
Each defendant being held on $500,000 bail at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.
According to Corona police Sgt. Jason Waldon, in the predawn hours of last Nov. 14, a 58-year-old man residing in the 1000 block of East Francis Street was alerted to activity around his vehicle and went outside to check on it.
Waldon alleged that the victim encountered the brothers and another man, 18-year-old Christian Rios of Yucaipa, attempting to dislodge the catalytic converter on the underside of his car.
“During the contact, one suspect swung a Sawzall-type tool at the victim,” the sergeant said. “The other suspect approached the victim, pointed a handgun at him and fired a round before fleeing from the location in a gray 2007 Ford Mustang. The victim was uninjured during the incident.”
In the ensuing two months, detectives were able to gather sufficient evidence to obtain search warrants, which were served at the defendants’ and Rios’ residences, as well as other properties in Fontana and Riverside.
“Detectives recovered matching clothing worn by the suspects, burglary tools commonly used to cut catalytic converters, two catalytic converters and an unregistered firearm,” Waldon said.
The men were taken into custody without incident.
Prosecutors have yet to file charges against Rios, who is no longer in custody.
The Lopez brothers have no documented prior felony convictions in Riverside County.
The Inland Empire and other regions statewide have been plagued by catalytic converter thefts. Converters are used to filter engine emissions to cut down on the amount of pollutants discharged by cars and trucks. The devices, located within a vehicle’s exhaust system, average about $1,000 apiece.