Crime

Three men arrested in violent Paso Robles bank robbery won’t be charged, DA says

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Witnessing a crime and reporting it can be just as frightening as being the victim of a crime. Here’s what you should do if you witness illegal activity.

Three men from Monterey County won’t be charged in relation to a brazen and violent robbery of a Paso Robles Chase Bank last week, but the District Attorney’s Office says an investigation into the robbery remains ongoing.

San Luis Obispo County Assistant District Attorney Eric Dobroth said Tuesday evening that his office won’t be filing charges at this time against Jose Christian Ramirez, 29, and Luis Rios Rico, 21, both of Soledad; and Edward Ivan Ochoa, 30, of Greenfield, who were arrested hours after the Nov. 20 robbery during a traffic stop near King City on Highway 101.

Dobroth declined to comment on whether the District Attorney’s Office believes the men were involved in the robbery, but he said that a “substantial” amount of evidence seized during their arrest there is still being processed.

Dobroth said two of the men, Ochoa and Rico, will be released from County Jail custody, where they’ve been held in lieu of $1 million bail for a week — without a court hearing — as prosecutors reviewed the case for possible charges.

But because Ramirez was also booked on suspicion of a probation violation, however, and Dobroth said it wasn’t immediately clear whether he would remain in jail custody.

The jail website showed that each man was still in custody early Tuesday evening.

Since they had not been arraigned in court, none of the three had attorneys on record Tuesday from which to seek comment.

Patricia Ashbaugh, head of the law firm that contracts public defender work for San Luis Obispo County, could not be reached Tuesday for any additional information on the cases or whether the three men were held longer than they were supposed to be without a court hearing.

According to state law, people arrested and booked into jail must appear before a judge within 48 hours, excluding Sundays and holidays.

Just before the business was to close at 6 p.m. Nov. 20, police say five men stormed into the Chase Bank on Niblick Road wearing masks and carrying handguns and a rifle, according to the Paso Robles Police Department.

Bank employees reportedly told police that five men demanded money, and one person struck an employee with a rifle before fleeing in a vehicle in heavy rush-hour traffic. The employee was transported to the hospital for treatment of a moderate eye injury, police said.

CHP officers located a suspect vehicle later that night traveling northbound at about 100 mph on Highway 101 near King City.

Officers conducted a traffic stop, and arrested Ramirez, Ochoa, and Rico, whom Paso Robles police said matched the descriptions of the suspected bank robbers.

An undisclosed amount of money taken from the bank was not immediately recovered, police said.

Investigators believe more people may have been involved in the robbery and are asking anyone with information to call 805-237-6464 or Crime Stoppers’ 24-hour hotline at 805-549-STOP.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to exclude a text message option for the Crime Stoppers hotline, which is no longer available.

Matt Fountain: 781-7909, @mattfountain1
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