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Suspects in crime spree that ended in San Luis Obispo County taken to Monterey County

The five Fresno residents who were held in San Luis Obispo County Jail after an alleged multicounty crime spree over the weekend were transferred Wednesday to the Monterey County Jail in Salinas, where prosecutors will consider filing criminal charges against them.

Monterey County prosecutors have agreed to review the case and consider filing charges for a series of alleged crimes that spanned multiple counties and ended in a shower of gunfire Sunday night in San Simeon, said Jerret Gran, San Luis Obispo County chief deputy district attorney.

Meanwhile, the San Luis Obispo County deputies who fired their weapons at the end of the suspects’ wild-ride spree in the normally quiet town of San Simeon have been placed on paid administrative leave, and counseling has been offered to them.

They were identified Wednesday by Sheriff’s Department spokesman Rob Bryn as Senior Deputy J.D. Cronin, a 16-year veteran of the department and former detective with a current secondary assignment on the Bomb Task Force; and Senior Deputy Todd Steeb, a 17-year veteran, EMT instructor and member of the Marine Enforcement Unit.

Authorities allege the suspects attempted to rob a camper near Big Sur, robbed a gas station in Gorda and tried to run down a San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s deputy before their vehicle was stopped by a hail of gunfire and two flat tires.

The five suspects have been tentatively identified as members of the Bulldog gang in Fresno. Their involvement in the gang could not be confirmed Wednesday by a Fresno police detective.The suspects are Joe Hernandez Jr., 28, the alleged driver of the stolen vehicle; Delia Rosanna Pena, 22; Ramiro Vasquez Jr., 22; Flora Amada Encinia, 32; and Manuel Delreal, 21. (Authorities initially spelled his first name as Manual).

Until Wednesday afternoon, all five were held at San Luis Obispo County Jail on suspicion of three counts of attempted murder and one count each of attempted armed robbery, armed robbery and felony shooting at an inhabited dwelling or vehicle.

Hernandez, who is being held in lieu of posting $525,000 bail, also had three warrants, one on suspicion of carrying a concealed weapon and two on suspicion of possessing a controlled substance. Each of the other four suspects was also arrested on suspicion of one unspecified warrant and was held in lieu of posting $500,000 bail.

After Monterey County prosecutors agreed to consider charges there, the suspects were released from custody, arrested by Monterey County sheriff’s officials and taken by van to that county’s jail, Gran said.

Most of the possible charges would stem from the alleged crimes in Monterey County, Gran said. Monterey County prosecutors could consider adding two charges against Hernandez — likely attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon — because he was the alleged driver of the vehicle that drove in the direction of a San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s deputy.

Spree started in Fresno

The five suspects came to Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties in a Lincoln Navigator that had been stolen in Fresno, authorities said.

Fresno police Detective Roland Rico said the vehicle was stolen Saturday from a residential area in the city’s southwest side.

Rico said the vehicle’s owner had left it unattended with the keys inside, and no one witnessed it being taken.

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, where a person’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 suspects’ 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 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 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, Hernandez, 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, sheriff’s Cmdr. Ken Conway told The Tribune earlier this week.

Deputies apprehended the suspects less than a mile from the entrance to State Parks’ San Simeon Creek Campground, he said.

Bryn said Wednesday that it could take months before investigators determine if any of the suspects shot weapons during the incident in San Simeon.

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