VISTA — An Escondido man accused of a string of holdups throughout the county will have to stand trial on charges relating to 21 robberies, a San Diego Superior Court judge ruled Jan. 19.
Joel Chacon, 32, pleaded not guilty to committing the 21 robberies, which occurred between August and October of last year. His charges relate to holdups in Oceanside, Escondido, San Marcos, Vista and San Diego.
Authorities dubbed Chacon the “Sunset Bandit” because the robberies generally occurred around dusk.
After a three-day preliminary hearing, in which victims from each robbery testified, Judge Joan Weber found enough evidence to bind Chacon over on all but one robbery charge.
Chacon’s attorney, Kathleen Cannon, argued that her client wasn’t responsible for all of the holdups and pointed to shaky witness identification and grainy surveillance video as her proof.
“The concern I have is that we are going to lay everything on the feet of Mr. Chacon,” Cannon said.
Still, Weber said the victims’ identification, in court as well as during police lineups, coupled with surveillance videos and other circumstantial evidence provided sufficient evidence for 21 of the 22 robbery charges filed against Chacon.
Weber dismissed the final robbery charge relating to a Nov. 4 holdup in Escondido after a witness testified Chacon was not the suspect. Prosecutors had alleged that Chacon, who was arrested the following day, used the money from that robbery to pay for his rented room in an Escondido residence.
Following Chacon’s arrest, San Diego Police Detective Chris Holt said he didn’t investigate any more similar types of robberies. The robberies linked to Chacon all had a similar style in which the suspect would attempt to purchase an inexpensive item from a shop or fast-food restaurant and when the teller opened the register he would demand the cash and usually brandish a firearm, the detective said.
Holt testified two “robbery kits” were found in Chacon’s room. Each kit contained a baseball hat, a bandana and sunglasses, he said. Additionally, one of the kits also contained a silver and black replica handgun.
Chacon remains in custody on $1 million bail. A trial date was set for April 27.