Phoenix robbery suspect arrested after reportedly targeting PetSmart stores in Arizona, California
PHOENIX - A Phoenix man accused of robbing nearly a dozen stores in Arizona and southern California was taken into custody on Aug. 20 after leading federal agents on a high-speed chase and shooting at them.
He wasn’t robbing luxury retailers. Police say his target was a popular pet store chain.
Federal prosecutors say a 26-year-old Phoenix man went on a month-long crime spree robbing 10 store employees at gunpoint. Nine of those stores were different PetSmart locations across southern California and a PetSmart in Phoenix.
Prosecutors say in the end, the suspect ended up accidentally shooting himself.
According to a search warrant filed in Orange County, California, the person in each of the surveillance photos is believed to be Samuel Sven Smith. Smith has faced past criminal charges in Arizona for marijuana and indecent exposure.
"He is an Arizona resident, renting the cars in Arizona, and driving to southern California for all these robberies," says Jeff Chemerinsky with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
According to court records, Smith would pick out an item and pay for it, then he’d pull out a gun and demand cash from the employee. On Aug. 18, agents say Smith robbed a Phoenix PetSmart at Tatum and Shea boulevards.
MORE: Arizona man charged with 3-week crime spree across Southern California, Arizona
Surveillance video captured the license plate of the car he drove from the scene.
"They tracked one of the license plates to a Turo rental car. They got the records from Turo and got the identity of the renter," Chemerinsky said.
Turo describes itself as a "peer-to-peer carsharing company" where people can rent their cars out to others without the need for a car rental company.
Prosecutors say Smith rented three different cars from Turo that were used in the robbery spree. Agents also tracked Smith’s cell phone, which led them to a California PetSmart in Rancho Cucamonga.
They spotted the same vehicle from the Phoenix robbery.
"Federal agents tried to intercept him as he left, and he opened fire on the agents," Chemerinsky said.
An agent’s vehicle was hit, Smith sped off, and law enforcement began to chase him.
"Sheriff’s deputies did a maneuver to stop his vehicle, rammed into his car. At that time, he accidentally shot himself then he was taken into custody," Chemerinsky said.
Prosecutors say Smith accidentally shot himself in the chin when his vehicle was rammed. Agents don’t know why he targeted PetSmart stores.
He now faces charges, including armed robbery and assaulting federal officers. If convicted, Smith could face up to 50 years in federal prison.