After months of investigation, the Flagstaff Police Department has identified three suspects wanted in connection with a string of heists, including the June armed robbery of a local jewelry store.
According to information from FPD, two men from the Phoenix area are suspected of attempting to rob Jim Anderson Jewelers, located at 2300 N. Fourth St., on June 24. A woman from the Phoenix area has also been implicated in the crime and may have been the getaway driver.
“FPD detectives began working diligently immediately after the robbery occurred,” said Police Department officials in a press release. “Their investigation found the suspects rented multiple hotel rooms in Flagstaff prior to the incident.”
Detective Adrian Barreras, who headed up the investigation, said the suspects arrived in Flagstaff two days before the robbery. One of the suspects entered the jewelry store around 11:15 a.m. June 24 claiming he wanted to look at wedding rings, but the owner soon grew suspicious when he asked if she was alone. He then pulled out a gun and tried to force her to open the safe in the back of the store.
At some point, the first suspect left the store and the second suspect entered. He smashed one of the jewelry cases, giving the store owner an opportunity to fire off one shot in his direction. The suspect was apparently so startled that he threw all the jewelry he had grabbed into the air and dove out a window. They quickly changed clothes and fled in a blue Chevy Impala rental that was found abandoned on East Skyline Drive.
According to the press release, investigators determined the suspects were able to escape Flagstaff within a couple hours of the robbery by using a getaway driver in a second vehicle.
“We are very confident that they are not in the Flagstaff area,” said Lt. Scott Mansfield. “They have no ties to Flagstaff.”
FPD relayed descriptions of the suspects and their methods to robbery task force officers in the Phoenix area.
“This immediately initiated leads into multiple suspects involved in a robbery ring that spanned multiple states,” according to the press release.
FPD has been working with other agencies on an FBI Safe Streets Task Force since this summer to investigate the robberies. The three suspects in the Flagstaff case are now being investigated in connection with a number of other crimes in multiple jurisdictions in Arizona and California.
“We want to acknowledge the fact that we’ve had assistance from other agencies, specifically the Federal Bureau of Investigation because of the crossing of state lines and some of the things that could have been occurring in some of the other cases,” said FPD spokesperson Sgt. Margaret Bentzen.
The taskforce has identified a pattern linking the cases, but FPD is still withholding many details because the investigations into the other robberies are still ongoing.
“It’s still such a big, complicated investigation and we don’t want to provide any information that may interfere with some of the other investigations that are going on,” Bentzen said.
Detectives showed photos of the suspects to the victim, but she was unable to identify them. However, Barreras confirmed that FPD obtained DNA evidence from the clothing the suspects left behind as they fled Jim Anderson Jewelers. The Department of Public Safety crime lab in Flagstaff has also processed other physical evidence from the crime scene. That evidence is now being used to help investigators in the other robberies in Arizona and California.
FPD officials described their work with the other law enforcement agencies in the robbery investigation as a symbiotic relationship.
“The work that was done in Flagstaff was instrumental in providing further information for the other agencies to continue their investigations, and vice versa,” Bentzen said. “It’s very much collaborative but it was really our case that started the ball rolling to provide evidence that could be used in some of their cases.”
Dequint Matthew “Q” Blunt, 21, Deron Porter Land, 38, and Monica Latoya Miller, 37, are all wanted in connection with the Jim Anderson Jewelers heist on charges that include armed robbery, kidnapping, aggravated assault and criminal damage. Land and Miller have extensive criminal histories.
Land is currently in prison in Yuma for a probation violation. The person who rented the first getaway vehicle, a known associate of the three suspects, is also currently incarcerated, although he is still listed only as an investigative lead.
Blunt and Miller are still on the lam.
“The FBI task force is assisting us with locating these subjects so that we can make contact with them,” Bentzen said.
She added that a great deal of work, including interviews, the execution of seven search warrants and the processing of many pieces of evidence, went into the case.
“I think what we want to highlight is the complexity of this case at this point,” Bentzen said. “It is not a simple whodunit.”
FPD is expected to release more information after the remaining suspects are in custody.