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Gunfire, chase end Central Coast crime spree

Tribune photo by Kathe Tanner

Five people from Fresno were in jail Monday after their alleged multicounty crime spree ended in a shower of gunfire Sunday night in the usually quiet town of San Simeon.

During the wild-ride spree that began in Fresno County, authorities allege, the suspects attempted to rob a camper near Big Sur, robbed a gas station at Gorda and tried to run down a San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s deputy.

The suspects, tentatively identified as members of the Bulldog gang in Fresno, were booked into San Luis Obispo County Jail on attempted-murder charges from Monterey County, along with other charges.

The suspects are: Joe Hernandez Jr., 28, the driver of the stolen vehicle, who was shot in the leg during the gunfire exchange; Ramiro Vasquez Jr., 22; Manual Delreal, 21; Delia Rosanna Pena, who turns 22 today; and Flora Amada Encinia, 32.

Bail for Hernandez, who was treated and released into custody, was set at $525,000, including $25,000 for two outstanding warrants. Bail for the others was set at $500,000 apiece.

According to information from the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office and The Monterey Herald, the suspects came to the county in a Lincoln Navigator that had been stolen in Fresno. Deputies in Pacific Grove tried to stop the sports utility vehicle for a seat-belt violation Sunday, but the suspects fled.

The same vehicle was reported at the scene of a possible robbery with shots fired at 9:50 p.m. about two miles south of Nepenthe restaurant in Big Sur. The victim’s vehicle was shot several times by the suspects, authorities said.

At 11 p.m., Monterey County officials were told that two employees at the Gorda Store were held at gunpoint and forced to fill the suspect’s vehicle with gas. The suspects allegedly ordered the employees to lie face down and not to look up. One employee looked up, and suspects fired rounds between the employees, authorities said.

In neither case were any injuries reported.

At 11:30 p.m., deputies in three San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s vehicles began following the Lincoln in the Ragged Point area, which is at the northern end of San Luis Obispo County. A fourth unit waited at the south end of San Simeon’s motel strip.

When deputies attempted to stop the vehicle, authorities said, the car’s driver initially pulled over on the east side of Highway 1 at Vista Del Mar. As the deputies had the suspects at gunpoint, the driver reportedly put the vehicle back in gear and turned it in the direction of one of the deputies. Other deputies began shooting at the car to try to protect the deputy, who took cover behind a patrol unit. Shots struck the suspects’ vehicle, with one hitting the driver in the leg.

The suspects took off, heading south about three-quarters of a mile, but the Navigator had two flat tires and other damage from the hail of gunfire, according to sheriff’s Cmdr. Ken Conway, and deputies apprehended the suspects less than a mile from the entrance to State Parks’ San Simeon Creek Campground.

The Sheriff’s Department is withholding names of the deputies involved, pending further investigation, according to department spokesman Rob Bryn.

Highway 1 was closed from about midnight to 9:30 a.m. Monday as sheriff’s and CHP investigators searched for evidence. At one point, northbound traffic was backed up for about two miles.

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