A San Mateo County jury will now decide the fate of the alleged “chrome-revolver bandit,” a 36-year-old man accused of using a large silver handgun to commit as many as 14 armed robberies in San Mateo, Santa Clara and San Francisco counties. Ricky Renee Sanders, 36, has been charged with 44 felonies in connection with the crimes, all of which took place in 2011 at big box stores such as PetSmart, Beverages & More, PetCo and Gamestop.
During one of the robberies at a PetSmart in San Mateo on Oct. 8, 2014, a manager who three months earlier had thwarted Sanders’ efforts to rob the store was shot in the leg as retribution, shattering his shin in a single shot, Deputy District Attorney Ivan Nightengale said. The manager survived, and in his testimony identified Sanders as the suspect who entered the store with a silver gun and attempted to rob it on two occasions, only once successfully.
In his closing statement, Nightengale said the preponderance of evidence presented during the three-week trial showed that Sanders was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Prosecutors used phone records to show that Sanders had called some of the stores minutes before robbing them, and that he had used his phone within blocks of other stores minutes before or after they were victimized. Nightengale displayed a ledger of Sanders’ bank account, which showed example after example of cash deposits in the thousands of dollars while Sanders was earning around $750 a month working two days a week for the city of Oakland.
Clothes that the robber wore — shown in nearly a dozen video surveillance images — and the vehicle used as a getaway car were retrieved from Sanders’ home after his arrest, according to the district attorney. “It starts to pile up, piece after piece of evidence indicating Mr. Sanders,” Nightengale said. Defense attorney John Elworth pointed out that in the majority of the robberies, the chrome revolver bandit had his face covered by a scarf or piece of clothing, and even after several witnesses had indicated Sanders in lineups and on the witness stand, the defense attorney and an expert witness said that police lineups are unreliable.
“I think it’s clear that the overwhelming number of witnesses were unable to identify the suspect,” Elworth said. The defense also suggested that the crimes were committed by Sanders’ friend, Charlie Hustle. Sanders claimed that he loaned his car, his ATM, PIN and both of his cellphones to the man on several occasions. The jury of four men and eight women now have the task of deliberating on whether to convict Sanders in each of the 44 separate charges, which include armed robbery, attempted robbery, assault with a firearm, and mayhem. Sanders faces life in prison if convicted.
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