Two charged in violent robbery spree to stand trial - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Two charged in violent robbery spree to stand trial

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Two men accused in a series of holdups in which a gun was held to the heads of some of the victims must stand trial on robbery and attempted robbery charges, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Benjamin Hernandez, 23, and Joseph Andres Garcia, 19, are each charged in the Feb. 2 robbery spree that targeted pedestrians in Ocean Beach, downtown, Point Loma and the UC San Diego area over a four-and-a-half-hour period.

Eleven victims had cellphones and wallets taken in seven robberies, authorities said.

Samuel Belsky testified during a daylong preliminary hearing that he was on the phone about 10:40 p.m. on Feb. 2 in front of his Mission Beach home when two armed men demanded his phone.

Belsky said one of the assailants put a gun to his head and said "three seconds."

When the victim hesitated, the gunman chambered a round and put it back to Belsky's head, he testified.

The victim said the other man hit him in the back with a crow bar, then grabbed his phone. Both ran to a waiting car.

Valerie Tran said she was sitting with a male friend at UCSD about 11 p.m. when two men -- one with a gun and one with a tire iron -- came up and robbed them.

The man with the gun held it to the head of Tran's friend.

"They just demanded that we give them everything," she testified.

Hernandez was arrested Feb. 3 after police identified his car as being used in the robberies.

San Diego police Detective Thomas Jacques testified that Hernandez admitted being the driver in all of the robberies and identified Garcia as the gunman.

A third assailant -- the one carrying the tire iron -- remains at large, said Deputy District Attorney Dan Link.

The prosecutor said Garcia's DNA was found on a door handle of the getaway car, and Hernandez's fingerprints were found on a stolen iPhone recovered from his car.

Superior Court Judge Louis Hanoian found that enough evidence was presented at the preliminary hearing for Hernandez and Garcia to stand trial.

The judge said he had heard enough evidence to charge both defendants with assault with a firearm and to additionally charge Garcia with a sentencing enhancement for the use of a semiautomatic firearm.

As currently charged, each defendant faces 14 years if convicted, but that could be doubled if firearm charges are added, Link said.

A Superior Court arraignment was set for April 22.

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