PHOENIX – A Phoenix man accused of robbing nearly a dozen stores in Arizona and Southern California was arrested on August 20 after leading federal agents in a high-speed chase and shooting them.
He wasn’t stealing from luxury retailers. According to police, his target was a popular pet store chain.
Federal prosecutors say a 26-year-old Phoenix man engaged in a month-long felony spree by robbing 10 store employees at gunpoint. Nine of those stores were different PetSmart locations in Southern California and one PetSmart in Phoenix.
Prosecutors say that ultimately the suspect ended up accidentally shooting himself.
According to a search warrant filed in Orange County, California, the person in each of the surveillance photos is Samuel Sven Smith. Smith previously faced criminal charges in Arizona for marijuana and indecent exposure.
“He’s a resident of Arizona, who rents the cars in Arizona and goes to Southern California for all these thefts,” said Jeff Chemerinsky of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
According to court records, Smith would choose an item and pay for it, then pull out a gun and demand money from the employee. On August 18, officers say Smith stole a Phoenix PetSmart on Tatum and Shea Boulevards.
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Surveillance video captured the license plate of the car he drove from the scene.
“They tracked one of the license plates from a Turo rental car. They got the Turo records and got the identity of the renter,” Chemerinsky said.
Turo describes itself as a “peer-to-peer car-sharing business” where people can rent their cars to others without the need for a car rental company.
Prosecutors say Smith rented three different cars from Turo that were used in the robbery spree. Officers also tracked Smith’s cell phone, which led them to a California PetSmart in Rancho Cucamonga.
They spotted the same vehicle from the Phoenix flight.
“Federal agents tried to intercept him as he was leaving, and he opened fire on the agents,” Chemerinsky said.
An officer’s vehicle was hit, Smith sped up, and law enforcement began pursuing him.
“Sheriff’s deputies made a maneuver to stop his vehicle, rammed his car. At that point he accidentally shot himself and then he was taken into custody,” Chemerinsky said.
Prosecutors say Smith accidentally shot himself in the chin when his vehicle was rammed. Agents don’t know why he targeted PetSmart stores.
He now faces charges including armed robbery and assault on federal agents. If convicted, Smith faces up to 50 years in federal prison.