A preliminary hearing is scheduled today for four reputed gang members accused of holding up a Moreno Valley jewelry store and shooting a clerk before fleeing onto a freeway and leading police on a multi- county chase.
Jerome Renard Allen, 23, Damine Lavonte Banks, 30, Roosevelt Andrew Fernandez, 26, and Traevon Cortez Vidaud, 24 -- all from the Los Angeles area --
could face 38 years to life in prison if convicted of attempted murder, robbery and gang activity with multiple sentence-enhancing gun and great bodily injury allegations.
Fernandez is charged separately, but his case is expected to be consolidated with the others' today.
The men are being held at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside in lieu of bail amounts ranging from $1 million to $2.1 million. Today's hearing before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Helios Hernandez will determine whether there's sufficient evidence to warrant a trial.
According to prosecutors, the foursome -- and a fifth suspect who remains at-large -- robbed Empire Jewelry and Loan at 24571 Sunnymead Blvd. on the afternoon of Dec. 12.
Witnesses said four masked men armed with small-caliber pistols burst into the pawn shop and broke into display cases, stealing merchandise and shooting a clerk before fleeing in a charcoal Lexus driven by a cohort who remained in the vehicle during the holdup.
The bandits sped west on the Moreno Valley (60) Freeway, where they were spotted a few minutes later by California Highway Patrol officers, who pursued them at speeds of 100 miles per hour through San Bernardino, Los Angeles and Orange counties.
The robbers then made their way south on the Orange (57) Freeway to Fullerton, where the chase ended on Nutwood Avenue, near Mihaylo Hall on the Cal State Fullerton campus.
Allen and Banks fled on foot and were arrested near the university, but two other men fled across the campus and melted into the crowd.
Vidaud allegedly carjacked a motorist nearby, stealing his silver compact car, triggering a high-speed 20-minute chase that went west onto the Artesia (91) Freeway until the ex-con reached Compton, where he pulled into the Imperial Courts Recreation Center in Watts and was immediately captured by police.
LAPD officers happened to have been at the recreation center with Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck to distribute gifts to underprivileged youngsters.
Meantime, at Cal State Fullerton, an estimated 10,000 people, mostly students, were stranded on the campus for more than seven hours as authorities searched for the two suspects.
Fernandez was arrested in Long Beach on Dec. 26.