Local News

Monday, Dec 16 2013 05:50 PM

How a plan to buy new iPhone with duffel bag of cash went awry

BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

The victim in the Dec. 4 robbery that led to an officer-involved shooting brought $5,000 in a green-and-brown duffel bag to The Marketplace after seeing what he thought was a great deal on Craigslist for an iPhone 5c.

What he got instead was a scare, and a lesson about walking around carrying large amounts of cash.

The victim arrived outside the Chase Bank, took the $400 asking price for the phone from the duffel bag and showed it to the sellers, according to search warrants filed in court by Bakersfield police. One of the sellers handed the man the phone, who began checking to see if it was stolen.

It's unclear how the suspects knew there was cash in the duffel bag. But as the victim checked the phone, one of the men grabbed the duffel bag and ran. The three other men got into a car and drove away, picking up the runner before speeding off from The Marketplace.

The victim called police and officers were soon on the trail of the suspects' blue 2005 Nissan Maxima. Police followed the car to a business complex at Ashe Road and White Lane.

The driver slowed the vehicle and three men got out and ran, police said. He then made a sharp turn to get out of the complex and onto Ashe Road.

Witnesses said the driver sped directly at a police officer who then opened fire. The search warrant says the officer fired three shots.

The driver, later identified as 23-year-old Eric Miles Jr., was struck but continued out of the complex and led police on a short chase that reached speeds of 100 mph before ending on Ashe about 200 yards south of Stockdale Highway.

Miles had been struck by gunfire and was taken to Kern Medical Center with moderate injuries. Police found cash on the roadway and in the car, and other items -- including several iPhones -- linking the vehicle to The Marketplace incident as well as earlier thefts in Visalia.

Miles is charged with crimes including robbery, grand theft and assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer. Montrice Maize, 26, and Brandon Burns, 29, have also been arrested in connection with the robbery.

Police Sgt. Joe Grubbs said the fourth suspect remains at large, and not all of the money has been recovered.

The search warrant says the iPhone the victim had been about to purchase was stolen along with two other cellphones from a Sprint store in Visalia that same day. A group of men matching the suspects' description also stole four cellphones from a T-Mobile store in Visalia. The warrent didn't specify when the T-Mobile theft occurred.

It's unknown why the victim brought so much cash to The Marketplace.

As for the phone, Forbes reports that the 5c "comfortably meets the expectations of consumers who are looking for a solid performing smartphone," and that it feels "welcoming, comfortable and powerful at the same time."

Depending on the number of gigabytes and service plan, the phone retails at the Apple Store from $99 to more than $600.

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