A man is in custody in connection with a robbery and two vehicle fires in Surprise.
Israel Andrew Diaz, 28, of El Mirage, faces charges of robbery, arson, kidnapping, tampering with evidence, prohibited possession of a weapon and drug possession.
Around 3 p.m. Jan. 10, Surprise police responded to a vehicle on fire in the parking lot of a crowded shopping complex near Grand Avenue and Bell Road. According to records, as officers arrived, a second vehicle fire was reported in another nearby parking lot. About 2 minutes later, police responded to a bank robbery at the nearby Bank of America.
Police, believing the incidents to be related, established crime scenes at each incident.
At the bank, police learned the suspect gave a note to a teller, demanding $2,500 and for the teller to not make a scene. According to court documents, the suspect took $1,800 from the bank.
Police said a male in his 30s or 40s committed a bank robbery and then fled in a light blue van, possibly a 2000s Toyota Sienna with damage around the front passenger fender. He was described as wearing a grey-hooded sweater, blue jeans, black shoes, and a black Matco Tools cap. He had a full, neatly groomed beard and a circular tattoo on his left hand.
Surveillance video showed a Toyota Sienna approach one of the vehicles that caught fire, records state.
Police sent out a flyer, leading to several tips identifying the suspect as Israel Diaz. Police obtained his address and found a vehicle matching that in the robbery case.
Police found social media posts of Mr. Diaz showing a Ying-Yang tattoo, which was provided in their suspect description.
On Monday, Jan. 13, police saw Mr. Diaz leave his apartment and followed him to a business near Grand Avenue and Santa Fe Lane. He was arrested and allegedly found in possession of a handgun and illegal drugs.
Mr. Diaz allegedly admitted to the robbery and both arsons. He claimed he had lost his jobs weeks ago and had been served with an eviction notice. Mr. Diaz said he allegedly planned the robbery and started the fires as a diversion. He reportedly burned the clothes he used during the incidents.
Police searched his apartment, finding several bullet holes and spent shell casings. Mr. Diaz allegedly admitted to firing shots inside his home earlier Monday while his four children and girlfriend were inside, claiming they were “out to get him.”
Mr. Diaz was jailed in lieu of a $25,000 bond with court dates Jan. 21 and 24.
"The Surprise Police Department would like to extend our gratitude to the numerous community members that called and e-mailed in tips," police stated in a release. "The information shared by our community members played a vital role in the quick identification and apprehension of Israel Diaz.