‘Botched’ home invasion leads to gunfight with victims

RIALTO – Police are still searching for two suspects in a “botched home invasion” that left two men dead Wednesday night.

Two other suspects were arrested following a vehicular pursuit, including one who was injured during an earlier shootout with the armed residents.

Reports say that bullets started flying around 8:45 p.m. on the 900 block of North Beechwood Avenue, southeast of Rialto Municipal Airport.

“The residents saw the armed people approaching the house,” said Rialto police Lt. Joe Cirilo. “As a result, the residents armed themselves.”

But while the occupants of the home were grabbing their guns, police said the intruders got the drop on them in what Cirilo called a “botched home invasion.”

“They took one of the residents to the ground and shot him,” Cirilo said. That man, who remains unidentified, died at the scene.

Cirilo said that a mortally wounded intruder, identified by coroner’s officials as Earlwin Donta Johnson, 24, of Rialto, ran from the single-story home and collapsed in the street. He was taken to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton where he died at 9:48 p.m.

Police spotted a white van at Cedar and Foothill avenues two miles from the gunfight. It had been witnessed carrying at least four suspects. An officer tried to stop the van, but the driver refused to pull over.

The driver eventually stopped in the 300 block of North Wisteria Avenue, where two men got out of the van and ran. Those men are still being sought. The driver took off in the van again, leading police to Lancewood Avenue, north of Second Street.

The driver finally stopped and was arrested, along with a wounded passenger. The suspects were identified by Rialto police as Fort Lee Arther, 41, and Andrew Lamar Stewart, 23. They were booked into the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga for investigation of two counts of murder.

The injured suspect was treated at Arrowhead Medical Center and returned to police custody. Cirilo said that both men were questioned by investigators.

Yellow crime scene tape sealed off a half-block of the residential neighborhood Friday morning as police removed a rifle — and the second body — from the scene.

Some neighbors said they often saw children playing in the yard and that activity at the home seemed normal.

Investigators haven’t established why the particular house was targeted.

“We’re still trying to determine the motive,” Cirilo said.


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