An 18-year-old man is accused of leading a group of teens in a shooting and robbery spree across west Phoenix.
Phoenix police report Jovani Valdez, 18, was arrested last Friday afternoon on charges including engaging in terrorism, armed robbery, misconduct involving weapons, aggravated assault and discharging a weapon within city limits.
Around 1 p.m. Dec. 28, police responded to a shooting in the area of 51st Avenue and Van Buren Street.
A witness told police Mr. Valdez was inside a vehicle and aggressively following a City of Phoenix Valley Metro bus as it traveled eastbound from 67th Avenue. Mr. Valdez was also displaying an AR-15 rifle towards the witness.
While still in motion, the victim told the bus driver a Ford Escape was following. Once the bus stopped at 51st Avenue, the Ford drove next to the bus, and Mr. Valdez reportedly shot two times towards the bus.
Two other people saw the suspect vehicle drive in front of the bus while Mr. Valdez leaned out of the passenger side and displayed the rifle. The vehicle then left as witnesses called police.
Police later learned the bus was not struck by any bullets. The bus was out of service for about six hours while the investigation continued.
Police said the AR-15 was stolen from a Gila River police officer’s Avondale home at around 3:30 a.m. that day.
An hour of crimes
Around 1:30 p.m. police responded to the area of 67th Avenue and Lower Buckeye Road for another shooting. A victim reported she was driving when she saw occupants of a Ford Escape firing a weapon towards her.
Police located 12 shell casings in the street and area of the shooting, records state.
Not even four minutes later police learned of a armed robbery near 67th Avenue and Buckeye Road.
A man was walking in the area when a dark-colored SUV pulled up and an occupant pointed an AR-15 at him. The suspect told the man to stop, which he complied.
Two suspects then exited and demanded the man’s property at gunpoint. One of the suspects fired a warning shot and then told the victim to run. The suspect then fired another shot.
Another witness saw the commotion and was able to provide two suspect descriptions to police. He also obtained the suspect’s license plate. The vehicle was found to be stolen.
Police later located the vehicle unoccupied near 83rd Avenue and Van Buren Street. A witness flagged officers and told them two people were seen running from the vehicle, one of whom had an AR-15.
Officers then located four suspects, including Mr. Valdez, in the area. Mr. Valdez was arrested around 2:10 p.m. inside a Circle K.
Police found the AR-15 inside his pants. Two other suspects were found hiding in a dumpster, records state.
Mr. Valdez admitted his involvement in several of the crimes, records state. He said the juveniles were also present throughout the day.
He told police he shot towards the bus knowing someone was inside because he was mad at them over a previous incident.
Police learned one of the other suspects had stolen the Ford Escape and had headed to the desert with the other suspects to fire the stolen AR-15. He then admitted to stealing a pickup truck.
Mr. Valdez was booked into the Fourth Avenue Jail in lieu of a $500,000 bond. He is due in court Jan. 4 and 8.
Police are charging the teenagers, who are not being named because of their ages, with a number of crimes as well.
Back in jail
Mr. Valdez’s recent arrest does not appear to be his first run in with law enforcement.
The Daily News-Sun reported in August that Mr. Valdez was arrested in connection with a robbery in Glendale July 31.
Mr. Valdez and his older brother pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery in October.
It was not immediately known if they were sentenced yet. The Daily News-Sun reached out to an attorney representing the younger Valdez.