LOS ANGELES - Two suspects charged in connection with a crime spree that left three people dead and included robberies at a string of 7- Eleven robberies across the Southland made their first court appearances Tuesday, but their arraignment on various felony counts was delayed until next month.
Malik Patt of Los Angeles is facing three counts of murder, along with attempted murder and other felonies in connection with killings that occurred July 11 in or near 7-Eleven stores in Santa Ana and Brea, along with the July 9 killing of a homeless man in North Hills in Los Angeles County.
"Patt is a stone-cold serial killer," Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said at a news conference Monday announcing the criminal charges. "There's no other way to describe him."
In addition to the three murder counts, Patt also faces two counts of attempted murder, three counts of robbery and one count of carjacking while armed, according to Spitzer.
The charges against Patt include special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and murder in the commission of a robbery. The case also includes various sentencing enhancements for personal use or discharge of a handgun.
Patt faces a possible death sentence, if prosecutors opt to pursue it. At a minimum, he would face life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted at trial.
The co-defendant in the case, 44-year-old Jason Payne, described as a neighbor of Patt, was charged with three counts of robbery and one count of attempted robbery, stemming from heists in Santa Ana, La Habra and Brea, Spitzer said.
Payne was only charged with robberies -- not murder -- at this time because of a change in state law that requires prosecutors to show more evidence that the suspect knew killing was part of the plan and that he acted in a way that showed reckless indifference to the lives of the victims, Spitzer said.
Both men appeared in court in Santa Ana Tuesday, but their arraignment was delayed until Aug. 18.
Patt is being held without bail. Payne's bail was set at $100,000.
Patt and Payne were arrested about 1:10 p.m. Friday in the 1900 block of West 23rd Street, near Normandie Avenue, in South Los Angeles, authorities said. Police said Patt is the main suspect seen in widely circulated surveillance video photos from some of the robberies.
In court Tuesday, Senior Deputy District Attorney Seton Hunt revealed that after the July 11 crime spree and before their arrests on Friday, the pair went to a sporting goods store in an attempt to buy more ammunition. The pair were unable to do so, due to Patt's age and Payne's criminal background.
It's not entirely clear how Patt and Payne are connected, but they are neighbors in Los Angeles and have had a "long-standing relationship," Spitzer said. Payne was allegedly a driver in the stickups, but Patt is also accused of carjacking a victim to get to the getaway car Payne was driving, Spitzer said.
Spitzer said Patt's alleged actions during the crime wave sent "chills up my own spine."
"To see somebody who could just kill people in cold blood like this, it's just unfathomable. It's scary," he said.
According to Spitzer, the crime spree allegedly carried out by Patt began July 9 with the slaying of a homeless man in the 16100 block of Parthenia Street, near Woodley Avenue, in North Hills. That killing occurred about 200 yards away from a 7-Eleven store that was robbed later that day.
Investigators in Los Angeles County were still working to determine if that robbery and other heists in the area are connected to Patt or Payne.
Authorities said the 7-Eleven crime spree occurred July 11 -- or 7-11 - - beginning in Ontario. Police said just after midnight, the 7-Eleven at 636 N. Vine Ave. was robbed. The suspect held up the store with a handgun, but no shots were fired and no one was injured.
At 1:35 a.m. July 11, the 7-Eleven store at 2410 W. Arrow Route in Upland was robbed, police said.
At 1:50 a.m., the 7-Eleven store at 5102 La Sierra Ave. in Riverside was robbed by a gunman. That robbery escalated, with the suspect shooting a customer, who was hospitalized in what was described as grave condition.
Officer Ryan Railsback of the Riverside Police Department said Friday the victim has shown "slight improvement, but is still very critical."
Minutes after 3 a.m. July 11, the Yum Yum Donuts shop at 2441 N. Tustin St. in Santa Ana was robbed, Valentin said.
About 20 minutes later, 24-year-old Matthew Rule of Santa Ana was fatally shot outside the 7-Eleven store at 302 E. 17th St. in Santa Ana.
Officers found Rule in the parking lot with a gunshot wound to the upper body, Santa Ana Police Department Sgt. Maria Lopez said. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene.
Santa Ana Police Department Chief David Valentin said Rule was not the primary target of the shooter. The gunman was targeting someone else, but Rule "stepped in" to "redirect" the robber and was shot, Valentin said.
Brea police said they responded at 4:17 a.m. to the 7-Eleven store at 109 W. Lambert Road and found a male store clerk fatally shot in what officers determined to be a robbery. The clerk was later identified as 40-year-old Matthew Hirsch, who died at the scene, police said.
About a half-hour later, the 7-Eleven store at 381 E. Whittier Blvd. in La Habra was robbed, and two people were shot, according to Sgt. Eric Roy of the La Habra Police Department. Both victims were taken to a hospital, and both were expected to survive. Police said the victims were a clerk and a customer.
Based on surveillance images, police said they were able to link the same suspect to all of the heists.
The robberies that occurred in Ontario and Upland will be prosecuted in San Bernardino County, Spitzer said. The Orange County District Attorney's Office will prosecute the shooting at the 7-Eleven in Riverside if the victim dies, but it will be prosecuted in Riverside County if the victim survives the attack, Spitzer said.
Orange County Board Chairman Doug Chaffee said county officials were considering offering a reward in the case, but law enforcement was so efficient that they didn't have a chance to do it before the suspects were arrested. So the board will instead use the money to benefit victims of the attacks, Chaffee said. The supervisors on Tuesday approved $150,000 for the victims fund.
The 7-Eleven company last week offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspect in the robberies and killings. It was unclear if anyone will be eligible to claim the reward.
"We are grateful that the Orange County District Attorney has announced local law enforcement has apprehended suspects related to the recent violent incidents. We will continue to fully support law enforcement with their investigation," according to a company statement said issued after the arrests.