HIGHLAND — After getting a badly needed break Thursday, San Bernardino County sheriff’s authorities arrested a man who could be responsible for up to 30 armed robberies in four Southern California counties.
Officials say Nathaniel Dawson, 45, robbed a Wendy’s restaurant in Highland on Thursday morning. At 4 p.m., a deputy spotted a green Nissan Cube near Victoria Street that had been described by a witness. The deputy stopped the car and arrested Dawson.
“Citizens of the entire region, not just San Bernardino County but all of Southern California, can sleep a little easier tonight knowing this individual is in custody,” Sheriff Rod Hoops said at a press conference Thursday afternoon.
Investigators have linked Dawson to 10 robberies in Highland, Loma Linda, Redlands, Riverside and Rialto since early March, Hoops said. Police do not know if Dawson was the man who shot and killed 20-year-old Michael Huizar at a Taco Bell in Rialto early last Sunday morning.
“He is definitely the person who robbed Stells on March 7,” said Redlands police spokesman Carl Baker, referring to a string of Redlands-based crimes allegedly committed by Dawson. Also robbed were Shear Perfection on March 14 and Dairy Queen on March 23, when a clerk was shot.
Redlands detectives, said Baker, “identified him (Dawson) as the suspect based (on) the vehicle before sheriff’s deputies even made the traffic stop leading to his arrest.”
A handgun was recovered after search warrants were served at locations in Highland and neighboring San Bernardino. Hoops said other evidence was also recovered, including the gun police believe he used, and links to at least 10 of the crimes.
Investigators from across Southern California are still reviewing old armed robbery cases to see if Dawson, a Highland resident, is the man responsible for as many as 30 armed robberies in such cities as Ontario, Upland, Montclair, Artesia, Fullerton, Riverside and Tustin — communities in Orange, Riverside, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.
The break in the case came from a witness to Thursday’s robbery of a Wendy’s located on Base Line and Boulder avenues, just off Interstate 210, in Highland. The witness gave a description of the green Nissan Cube while surveillance cameras were able to show Dawson leaving the fast food restaurant in that car.
Police have described Dawson’s pattern of crime as a simple one. He allegedly rushes into a business with a handgun, demands cash and flees on foot. According to reports, a vehicle was never seen until Thursday.
Two days earlier, a Subway restaurant was robbed in nearby Loma Linda, but the suspect was able to escape before deputies could arrive.
“These robberies involved a suspect with a similar description in all locations,” Hoop said of the black hooded sweatshirt and face-covering black bandana favored by the suspect. “This individual was dressed almost exactly the same in every incident of his crimes.”
Dawson, whose bail was set at more than $1 million, was booked at West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga on suspicion of armed robbery, reckless driving and attempted murder.