Police charge five suspects in Wheaton commercial armed robbery

Detectives from the Montgomery County Police Department - Major Crimes Division have arrested and charged five males for armed robbery.

According to police, detectives have been investigating a series of commercial armed robberies that appeared to be related. In each robbery, multiple suspects who were armed with handguns and often with their faces concealed, would enter a business, threaten employees, and demand cash. One of these robberies was the September 22 armed robbery of the Exxon gas station.

Friday afternoon, at approximately 12:35 p.m., police officers responded to the report of an armed robbery that had just occurred at the Cash Depot store in the 11200 block of Georgia Avenue in Wheaton.

Police say multiple suspects, with their faces concealed and brandishing firearms, entered the Cash Depot store. The suspects threatened a store employee and demanded money. The employee complied with the suspects' demands. The suspects obtained an undisclosed amount of currency and witnesses observed the suspects fleeing from the area in a white Chevrolet van.

At approximately 12:50 p.m., officers observed a white Chevrolet van that matched the suspects' vehicle description traveling in the area of Anne Street and University Boulevard East in the Takoma Park area. Plainclothes officers who were operating unmarked Montgomery County Police Department vehicles then began to follow the van from that location to the Beltway where the operator of the van drove onto the Inner Loop of Interstate 495 toward the College Park area.

Officers continued to follow the van on the Inner Loop of Interstate 495 into Prince George's County. As the suspects approached the Route 1 area, they collided with at least one vehicle. After the collision, the driver of the van, identified as Juan Carlos Gomez, age 37, of an unconfirmed address, fled from the vehicle onto Interstate 495 attempting to elude capture. Gomez was struck by an unmarked MCP vehicle involved in the pursuit. That vehicle was being operated by an on-duty MCP officer. The collision is being investigated by the Maryland State Police.

MCP officers at the collision scene began life-saving measures on Gomez but he succumbed to his injuries at the scene. Additional MCP officers at the scene arrested two of the suspects who had remained in the van. Multiple firearms were recovered from inside the van. Two additional suspects, who had fled from the van after the collision, were arrested by MCP officers following a brief foot pursuit.

Ayala-Rivera, Avila-Castro, Romero-Rivera, Ramirez-Delgado, and Zelaya-Ramirez were transported to the Central Processing Unit (CPU) where they were charged with armed robbery, first-degree assault, and the use of a firearm during the commission of a violent felony. Ayala-Rivera was charged with an additional count of armed robbery for the September 22 Exxon gas station armed robbery. Bond information for the suspects is not yet available.

Miguel A. Ayala-Rivera, age 23, Marcio Roney Avila-Castro, age 21, Yeruin J. Romero-Rivera, age 21, Juan R. Ramirez-Delgado, age 34, and Edwin Geovanny Zelaya-Ramirez, age 17 (charged as an adult) are charged with committing yesterday's (November 3) armed robbery of the Cash Depot store located at 11246 Georgia Avenue in Wheaton. Detectives have charged Ayala-Rivera with an additional charge relating to the September 22 armed robbery of the Exxon gas station located at 12245 Veirs Mill Road which is adjacent to the Stoneymill Square shopping center. None of the defendants could provide a confirmed address.

The officer involved in the collision, a 24-year veteran of the Department, is identified as Sergeant William Thomas. Following protocol, he is on paid Administrative Leave during this investigation.