The man arrested for terrorizing small business clerks in Ahwatukee Foothills with a sawed-off shotgun during a two-month robbery spree has changed his plea to guilty and will be sentenced to prison March 1.
Henry Diaz Jr., 29, struck nine separate sandwich shops and small businesses on both sides of Interstate 10 in September and October 2008, police said.
The suspect was not caught until Phoenix police officers assigned to the Neighborhood Enforcement Team tracked him down using “good, old-fashioned police work,” according to Sgt. Phil Roberts of the robbery detail.
The Ahwatukee Foothills officers, led by Sgt. Chris Kiefer, hit the streets looking for clues shortly after the robbery of a Circle K at 48th Street and Ray Road on Sept. 29, 2008.
By searching through surveillance tape at various businesses, officers eventually found what they suspected was the getaway vehicle. On Oct. 30, 2008 the undercover officers were following the suspect when he left his apartment on 48th Street near Warner Road and traveled to the nearby Bashas’, police said. There they said they saw him enter the store, then return to his car. Officers didn’t know if he was casing the market or just doing some shopping, but they quickly took him into custody, without incident.
Officers wouldn’t say specifically what was found in his possession or in the car, but they did say that relevant evidence was uncovered.
Police had been searching for the suspect for weeks and were concerned about him carrying the weapon. “Anyone who uses a gun to rob a business is desperate and you never know what they will do,” Sgt. Frank Matsko said at the time.
All the robberies were similar, with the suspect entering a sandwich shop or small business, sometimes asking to make a small purchase and then pulling the shotgun out of his pants, police said.
At a Quiznos and a Subway, the clerks were so shocked at the sight of the shotgun they ran out the back of the businesses, leaving the suspect alone with a locked cash register.
Diaz was charged with seven counts of armed robbery and seven counts of kidnapping.