Masked robbers took over Pleasanton bank, stole $236k, shot at cop, carjacked elderly man

Masked robbers took over Pleasanton bank, stole $236k, shot at cop, carjacked elderly man

PLEASANTON — Four Salinas-area residents have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from 10 to 25 years in connection with a takeover robbery where four gunmen held up a Wells Fargo for $236,000, shot at a police officer, and carjacked an 87-year-old, court records show.

Hilario Sanchez, 33, was given 10 years in state prison as part of a plea deal that required he plead no contest to robbery. His three co-defendants, Rafael Reyes, 25, Joel Torres, 28, and Andrew Mora, 25, were each given 25 years for pleading no contest to carjacking and five counts of robbery. They were also each ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution.

The group faced much more serious charges that carried a potential life term as part of a 20-count felony complaint, including attempted murder of Pleasanton police Ofc. Brad Middleton, and kidnapping. The plea deals were finalized in December, court records show.

The Feb. 8, 2019 robbery was an unusually violent day for the typically quiet city of Pleasanton. It started a little before 11 a.m. when two robbers, armed with pistols, entered the Wells Fargo at 4676 Hopyard Road. Soon, two others entered the bank, each holding an AR-15 style rifle. Each of the rifle-wielders brought with him a hostage from outside, one of whom was forced onto the ground and dragged into the store at gunpoint.

“They were dressed in all black, and they had sunglasses and masks on with scary faces on the masks. Like Halloween masks, it looked like,” one teller would later recall from the witness stand. All told, two dozens customers and staffers were inside the bank at the time.

One of the rifleman stood guard at the entrance, while the men with pistols took an estimated $236,000 from the cash drawers and bank vault. After spending roughly three minutes inside the bank they fled to a Chevy Suburban and drove away.

That’s when Middleton entered the scene. On patrol that day, he was one of the officers alerted when a Wells Fargo staffer hit a silent alarm.

Middleton attempted to pull the Suburban over, only to be greeted with gunfire. At least two robbers began shooting at him through the back windshield of the Suburban. Police believe they fired as many as 18 shots, because that’s how many shell casings from two guns were found in the Suburban. Three shots hit Middleton’s patrol car but he avoided injury, and later received official commendation by the city of Pleasanton.

Soon after shooting at Middleton, the robbers abandoned the Suburban, wildly swerving in front of a Honda CR-V to block its path. The Honda’s driver, an 87-year-old man returning home from a morning walk, would later testify he exited the car when one of the rifleman walked up and ordered him out.

“I just got out of the vehicle. Not going to argue with him,” he testified in an August 2022 pretrial hearing. “I thought he was probably going to pop me in the back or something with his gun, but I just continued walking toward the back of my car.”

Police identified Mora and Torres by their clothing from surveillance video, and also linked cellphones found in the Suburban and a Chevy Cruz that had been parked near the Wells Fargo. They also found a receipt from a McDonald’s in Salinas from the morning of Feb. 8, and found both the Suburban and the Cruz were present at the restaurant, according to court records.

Authorities linked Torres’ DNA to a rifle left behind at a robbery at a Chase bank in Salinas, and allege that the group was connected to a Salinas-based gang.

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