LANCASTER – As the AV Times reported last week, would-be robbers shot into the car of a couple traveling with young grandchildren at the Stater Bros. parking lot in East Lancaster.
Three suspects have been arrested in connection with that incident, and authorities are investigating if the crime was part of a gang initiation, Lancaster Community Relations Deputy Miguel Ruiz said Wednesday.
“All three suspects do have gang ties,” Ruiz said.
The suspects are 22-year-old Albert Smith, 18-year-old Tyler Kircher, and a 17-year-old boy, according to Ruiz.
Investigators have also linked the trio to an armed robbery and attempted carjacking that happened across the street less than a half hour before the Stater Bros. incident, Ruiz said.
The first incident happened around 11:55 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 20 in the Jack in the Box parking lot on the 1700 block of East Avenue J.
Armed robbers stole personal items from two men and a woman who were sitting in a parked car, Ruiz said. One of the suspects tried to steal the car, but couldn’t because he didn’t know how to drive a stick shift, according to Ruiz. The three suspects then drove off in a silver Pontiac Grand Am.
Around 12:15 a.m. Aug. 21, a couple traveling with young grandchildren from San Jose to Palm Springs stopped at the Stater Bros. parking lot, in the 1800 block of East Avenue J, to rest and get something to eat. The grandfather said two young men confronted and tried to rob him as he walked through the parking lot. (See his interview below)
The victim said he was able to get to the car where his wife and grandchildren sat, but then the would-be robbers tried to pry the door open before firing a gunshot into the car.
The family escaped unharmed and drove to the Lancaster Sheriff’s Station for help.
Within 24 hours of the two incidents, deputies arrested two of the suspects – Tyler Kircher and the 17-year-old boy, according to Ruiz
Detectives with the Robbery Suppression Team, the LAN-CAP Team, and the Operation Safe Streets (Gang) Unit arrested the third suspect, Albert Smith, at an East Lancaster residence Tuesday night, Ruiz said.
The suspects are facing attempted carjacking, robbery, attempted robbery and attempted murder charges, according to Ruiz.
Previous related story: Grandparents, children shot at while passing through Lancaster