Female suspects arrested after pepper-spraying spree targets women

<p>Four young women suspected of going on a weekend purse-snatching spree in San Francisco using pepper-spray as their weapon were nabbed by police Monday when they took a coffee break at Starbucks.

Police arrested Ebony Espinoza, 24, of San Francisco; Tabreisha Moorz, 18, of Sacramento; a 16-year-old San Francisco girl and a 15-year-old Vallejo girl on several robbery charges. According to robbery Inspector John Peterson, the suspects, who knew one another through a family connection, sprayed at least three women on Sunday before stealing their belongings and went on to rob at least three more the following day.

The victims, who were all women, ranged between 19 and 58 years old, and none was especially frail, Peterson said. All eight were walking alone with purses or bags. Most of the robberies occurred during broad daylight.

As for the suspects, “They were on the bigger side, but they weren’t monsters,” Peterson said.

The series of robberies began Sunday at 1:45 p.m. at 37th Avenue and Anza Street in the Richmond district. Two of the suspects approached the first victim, sprayed her with pepper spray, and then took off with her purse. Two more robberies occurred in the area. Pepper spray was used in the first three robberies, and after each heist, the suspects hopped into a black, four-door Ford Contour and drove off to find the next victim, according to police. Some of the victims told investigators they heard the four laughing during the robberies.

But the last woman attacked Sunday about 8 p.m. managed to keep her bag. She also ended up with the pepper spray after one of the suspects dropped it, Peterson said.

Even without pepper spray — which is a liquid containing capsicum, the ingredient that makes chili peppers hot — the four suspected robbers didn’t end the spree.

The next day, the suspects began again in the outer Sunset area at 12:45 p.m., according to police. Three more robberies followed. On Monday, the suspects used intimidation and strong-arm tactics as their weapons, according to Peterson.

The women were arrested when they stopped at a Starbucks on Fillmore and O’Farrell streets for coffee. A couple of officers from Northern Station noticed the black Ford outside the coffee shop and went in for the arrest. Police said they found stolen property and several of the stolen bags in the car.

Police have seen groups of women in robbery schemes like this before, Peterson said, noting that, “robberies with guns are more male-oriented, in my opinion.”

bbegin@examiner.com

Where it happened

The locations of events in a series of alleged purse-snatching robberies, from beginning to end

Sunday

» 37th Avenue and Anza Street

» 300 block of 17th Avenue

» Anza and Collins streets

» Seventh Avenue and Balboa Street

Monday

» 2100 block of Vicente Street

» 600 block of Seventh Avenue

» California Street and 17th Avenue

» 46th Avenue and Cabrillo Street

Source: San Francisco Police Department

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