Bank robbery sleuths believe they’ve got their masked man

SANTA ROSA – A bank and a grocery store were the alleged targets of armed robberies attributed to a 27-year-old Santa Rosa man arrested during a high-speed pursuit Wednesday.

Red dye-stained currency helped authorities link Ruben Alberto Hernandez to the bank robbery committed around noon May 25. Wearing a hooded sweatshirt and black mask, the suspect entered the Exchange Bank on Yulupa Avenue brandishing a black handgun.

With stolen cash stashed in his duffle bag, the suspect crossed the footpath that connects the back area of the bank with Cactus Avenue when a red substance sprayed from the bag, police officials said.

A resident on Cactus Avenue called police dispatch to report that a masked man covered in a red substance left the area in a dark-colored, four-door Honda Accord, said Sgt. Steve Fraga of the department’s Violent Crimes Team.

While en route to the bank, a police officer spotted the suspect’s vehicle near Neotomas Avenue and Farmers Lane, officials said. Flaunting an attempted traffic stop near Farmers Lane and Hoen Avenue, the suspect driver fled at a high speed, running two red lights on Farmers Lane. The fleeing Honda Accord then struck a curb near the intersection of Sonoma Avenue, causing mechanical issues with the car, before continuing westbound onto Magowan Drive.

“Hernandez stopped in the 2000 block of Magowan Drive and put the gun to his head,” Sgt. Fraga revealed. “Officers yelled commands at him. He threw the weapon out of the driver’s side window onto the street. Officers were able to safely take Hernandez into custody.”

Police found in Hernandez’s vehicle a large amount of dye-stained U.S. currency along with the mask and duffle bag used in the bank robbery. Hernandez was later booked at the Sonoma County jail on robbery and felony evasion charges with bail set at $100,000.

A search of Hernandez’s residence on Carina Court also linked him to a Tuesday night robbery of the Carniceria Mendoza Market on Piner Road. Around 9 p.m., a masked man carrying a gun robbed four market employees of an undisclosed amount of cash, stuffed it in a black duffle bag and drove off in a black, 4-door Honda-type car, authorities said.

Detectives obtained a search warrant for Hernandez’ residence, where they found evidence from the bank robbery that indicated Hernandez was behind the grocery store robbery as well.

“However,” Fraga cautioned, “at this time, detectives are still completing their investigation in the market robbery.”


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