2 Suspects in Jewelry Store Robbery Attempt Arrested for Similar Crime in California

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WESLACO – Information about two suspects accused in the La Plaza Mall attempted robbery has surfaced.

Two suspects of the La Plaza Mall robbery were released from state prison in California in December 2017. They were convicted after a jewelry heist.

Video obtained by CHANNEL 5 NEWS from KTLA of the crime that happened in 2015. Nine men stormed into a jewelry store armed with a handgun and hammers, smashed the displays, and took off with designer watches. It only took a couple of minutes. They made their getaway in a van parked outside.

Two of those men are accused of attempting that same crime in McAllen -- Brayan Oliver Melchor and Abner Zepeda Posos. They were convicted in 2016 and served time in California. They were released in December 2017. Melchor and Posos are two of the seven accused of Saturday's La Plaza Mall attempted jewelry heist.

That day was full of confusion and panic as we learned from reading the police reports.

It was 12:24 p.m. Saturday when officers heard a call from dispatch. One officer reports it ""advised there was an active shooter inside the mall involving a possible robbery in progress." Seven suspects showed up with a handgun -- police say it was not a firearm. They wore construction site masks, they carried four hammers used to break concrete in hand, and white cloth bags.

Officers from all parts of the city rushed to get there -- no one was closer than off-duty McAllen PD officer Albert Rios. He worked security at Express -- right across from the jewelry store.

Video shows him entering. He secured two suspects and made two others get on the floor. They were out of frame. Another officer showed up. Officer Alberto Cabrera was off-duty shopping with his family -- he escorted them out and ran back inside to help. He walked in and found Rios holding two suspects down. Two others were lying face down with shards of glass on their face. Cabrera secured them in place. Another off-duty police officer arrived to help. He secured the other three suspects.

Outside, officers were sent by dispatch and civilians to other places. Reports of an armed man dressed in black running through the mall was sent out. Police checked Macy's, J.C. Penney, Victoria's Secret, Pink, Abercrombie, and the parking garage -- he wasn't there. A DPS chopper radioed they saw the man running to Studio 6, a hotel across the street. A person matched the description and was detained there. A woman who was with him was detained there, too.

Shortly after, a security sweep cleared the mall to reopen. Police were instructed to walk around and tell people it was safe.

Police were still on alert a day after the robbery. A BOLO, or 'be on the lookout' alert, was issued to police in the area after the robbery. It advised officers to be on the lookout for a maroon van seen at the mall during all the commotion Saturday.

That day, a police officer reported seeing an old maroon van without front license plates. It was parked by the food court -- that's the entrance closest to the jewelry store. A driver was inside and the hazard lights were on. The police officer described the driver as Hispanic and medium to dark complected. The seven suspects were arrested. The officer said they matched the description of the driver.

The next day, a different officer on patrol noticed that same van parked about a block away from the mall. Inside that van, the police officer saw a white dust mask like the one used by the robbery suspects, a luggage bag and a backpack. Two other vehicles parked next to it were also suspicious. The owners were not found at the time. Only the van was seized by police.

We asked the chief of police whether this indicates other suspects could be at large. He sent us this response:

"There are no updates at this time. As in all such matters, our investigation continues. At this time, as we have previously stated, ALL known suspects are in custody. Suggesting otherwise is not accurate."

The mall was reopen at 1:46 pm Saturday afternoon. A statement to clarify the incident was an attempted robbery was issued through the City of McAllen's Facebook page at 1:37 pm. CHANNEL FIVE NEWS and other news outlets received an official statement from McAllen police at 3:40 pm.

Count on CHANNEL 5 NEWS  to  bring you the latest in this case.


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