An Arizona man capped a three-week crime spree across two states by firing at federal agents during a high-speed chase, shortly before he accidentally shot himself in the jaw, according to his indictment.
Samuel Sven Smith, 26, of Phoenix, remains in a Southern California hospital where he’s being treated for a gunshot wound received Saturday, Aug. 20, in Pomona, according to state and federal court filings.
He’s listed as in stable condition.
Federal prosecutors charged Smith Monday with brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, assault on a federal officer, and robbery. Investigators estimate his 10 heists added up to $7,091 in loot.
Smith’s Arizona rap sheet includes arrests for marijuana possession, traffic violations, and indecent exposure. In 2018, a district attorney dropped the indecent exposure charge after Smith pleaded guilty to public sexual indecency.
His latest legal woes began on July 31 at a Big Lots outlet in Riverside, California, federal agents said. Authorities suspect Smith was the masked man dressed all in black who held cashiers at gunpoint and made off with $120.
Why do they think Smith’s crime spree began there? The gunman put the cash into a small black handbag that was trimmed in pink.
The next day, an armed robber carrying the same bag knocked off a PetSmart store in Signal Hill, California. The robber also ran out of the shop with a pricey bag of Royal Canin dog food. Investigators estimated he made off with $989.99 in cash and merchandise.
Less than two hours later, in Orange, California, officers responded to reports of a $335.19 stickup at a PetSmart there.
A gunman grabbed a bag of Royal Canin, exited the store, and then returned with a $100 bill for the cashier. When he opened till, the suspect was facing him with a pistol, allegedly uttering, “Sorry man. Just give me the money in the drawer right there.”
On Aug. 4, employees at a PetSmart in San Bernardino, California, called cops to report the same gunman took $300 from their register. Roughly seven hours later, a suspect fitting the same description held up a PetSmart in Fontana for an estimated $1,200.
The next day, a PetSmart in Pico Rivera was hit for $400. Six hours later, a robbery occurred at a PetSmart in Redlands, only this time, witnesses told officers the gunman with “a very strong odor of marijuana coming from his body” took $1,400 and left in a gray, older-model Toyota RAV4 SUV.
On Aug. 13 in Huntington Beach, the same suspect knocked off another PetSmart, taking $1,000 and a bag of dog treats. He allegedly told the cashiers he didn’t want to hold them up, but he had a sick kid.
Five days later, the suspect seemed to reappear at a PetSmart in Phoenix, Arizona, to steal $846. But this time he fled the scene in a Toyota Camry with black rims and no license plates.
That might’ve been his crucial mistake.
On Friday, in Santa Ana, California, US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Special Agent Ryan J. Stearman received information from the Turo car-sharing service that a silver Toyota Camry matching the description of the suspected getaway vehicle in the Phoenix heist had been rented to Smith on Aug. 16.
It was due back on Sunday. Turo’s records revealed Smith had rented a gray 2018 Toyota RAV-4 SUV from July 21 to Aug. 7 and a Toyota Corolla hatchback from Aug. 7 to Aug. 16.
On Aug. 4, a license plate reader camera in Rancho Cucamonga captured footage of the SUV about 12 minutes before and roughly three miles away from where the Redlands PetSmart was robbed.
The cell phone number Smith had used to rent the Toyotas could also be traced to the number he gave authorities after a May of 2019 traffic accident in San Diego and an arrest a month later in Phoenix.
And that same cell phone number pinged off transponders near each of the robberies, Stearman found.
On Saturday, an ATF-led task force in Phoenix began trailing Smith in his rented Toyota, often clocking him at more than 100 mph as he headed back to California, Stearman wrote in his criminal complaint.
After stopping to refill his tank in Colton, Smith allegedly drove straight to a PetSmart in Ontario. Stearman wrote that Smith used black tape to cover his license plate and then seemed to sit in his car for 10 minutes, staking out of the store.
He reportedly sped away to another PetSmart in Rancho Cucamonga and began assessing the amount of foot traffic in and out of the store, Stearman thought. Wearing black clothes, Smith entered the shop, pointed a pistol at the cashier, and then made off with $400-$500 in the black bag trimmed in pink, Stearman said.
As Smith neared his rented Camry, he appeared to make out the unmarked Violent Crimes Task Force of Orange County vehicle nosing up to his door and blasted at least two rounds into it, Stearman wrote.
A task force officer in another car fired back at Smith, but the suspect sped off.
For the next 20 minutes, Smith led task force officers, federal agents, and San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputes on a high-speed chase, at times taking potshots at officers out of his window, according to Stearman.
The deputies then began maneuvering to perform an unspecified PIT — pursuit intervention technique — that disabled the Toyota in Pomona.
“Smith told law enforcement, who were performing life saving measures, that when law enforcement rammed into his vehicle, Smith accidentally shot himself,” Stearman wrote.
Rancho Cucamonga authorities have also charged Smith with armed robbery and attempted murder of a peace officer.