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Sunday, February 17 , 2019, 10:40 pm | Fair 48º


4 People Arrested After Armed Robbery in Downtown Santa Barbara

Police say suspects were armed with handguns when they held up the Sprint store on State Street

Four people were arrested following a robbery Tuesday at the Sprint store on State Street in downtown Santa Barbara. Two of the suspects fled south on Highway 101, and were taken into custody at the Carpinteria Salt Marsh. Click to view larger
Four people were arrested following a robbery Tuesday at the Sprint store on State Street in downtown Santa Barbara. Two of the suspects fled south on Highway 101, and were taken into custody at the Carpinteria Salt Marsh. (Zack Warburg / Noozhawk photo)
Tafilele Puaauli Click to view larger
Tafilele Puaauli
Vaafato Matvia Click to view larger
Vaafato Matvia

Four people have been arrested in connection with an armed robbery at the Sprint store in downtown Santa Barbara on Tuesday afternoon, according to the Santa Barbara Police Department.

At about 4 p.m., police dispatchers received several 9-1-1 calls reporting two men with handguns holding up the store at 1101 State St. said Anthony Wagner, a police spokesman.

Two suspects — Tafilele Puaauli, 45, and Vaafato Matvia, 34, used a ruse to enter the store, which was closed but still occupied, Wagner said.

"Once inside the business, they brandished a firearm and locked the two lone employees inside a bathroom," Wagner said. "The suspects retrieved a number of Apple products valued at approximately $130,000 and left out the back door to a city parking lot, where a car was waiting for them."

Detectives responded quickly to the scene, and witnesses were able to provide descriptions of the suspects and their vehicle, as well as a license plate number, Wagner said.

That information was relayed to other law-enforcement agencies, and a short time later a CHP officer spotted the suspect vehicle on Highway 101.

The alleged robbers apparently hadn't factored the afternoon rush hour into their get-away, and were soon mired in stop-and-go traffic, Wagner said.

At Carpinteria Avenue, the vehicle exited the freeway, and the suspects fled on foot into the Carpinteria Salt Marsh, Wagner said.

Santa Barbara officers responded to the scene with a police K-9, and two suspects were quickly located.

One attempted to flee, and the K-9 was used to subdue him, Wagner said, adding that a second suspect surrendered without incident. A third suspect remained at large.

"Officers located a loaded firearm in the suspect vehicle along with the stolen merchandise," Wagner said.

Crystal Viramontes Click to view larger
Crystal Viramontes
Mianuel Bringas Click to view larger
Mianuel Bringas

The suspect who as bitten by the dog was taken to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital for treatment of his injuries.

The other suspect was taken to the Santa Barbara police station for questioning.

Subsequent investigation revealed two additional people who allegedly were also involved in the robbery, and they were arrested with the assitance of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Crystal Viramontes, 29,, and Mianuel Bringas, 27, were subsequently picked up by investigators and returned to Santa Barbara.

All four were booked into Santa Barbara County Jail on charges of robbery, kidnapping and conspiracy, Wagner said.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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