Henry Diaz Jr. didn’t make excuses when he stood before Judge Robert Gottsfield Friday, just before being sentenced for a string of armed robberies in Ahwatukee Foothills and Tempe where he used a sawed-off shotgun.
“I know what I did was wrong,” said Diaz, 29.
He told the judge that he knew he couldn’t change what he did, but Diaz apologized to the victims before asking their forgiveness. He said he had been “re-born” in jail and that he was prepared to put his time in prison to good use and promised to come out a better man.
With that, Gottsfield sentenced Diaz to a total of 15.75 years in prison for eight counts of armed robbery, eight counts of kidnapping and two counts of attempted armed robbery. Diaz pleaded guilty to all.
His parents sat quietly in court, his father crying, as the sentence was announced.
Phoenix police said that Diaz was responsible for a series of armed robberies of small businesses in September and October of 2008. A sawed-off shotgun was his trademark.
No one was injured in the crimes, but police became increasingly concerned over the possibility that a clerk could be hurt.
When police arrested Diaz in October 2008, he was about to re-enter Bashas’ at 48th Street and Warner Road, armed with a sawed-off shotgun.
His arrest ended the string of robberies that had clerks at local sandwich and convenience stores on edge.
His defense attorney, Rebecca Potter, said the string of robberies was out of character for Diaz, who had no previous criminal record.
“Over one month, he ruined his life,” Potter said.
Diaz told Gottsfield that he became depressed when he lost his job and couldn’t find another and was about to lose his truck, but he didn’t use that as an excuse for his string of armed robberies.
According to police and witnesses, Diaz, dressed in all black, would enter a business wearing a beanie and sunglasses. He would then pull the sawed-off shotgun out of his pants, take the cash and flee. In a few instances, startled clerks ran at the sight of the shotgun, leaving the would-be robber alone in a business but empty-handed.
Four different Quizno’s shops were robbed, along with a Subway, Papa John’s, Circle K and two other businesses.
The case was cracked when the Phoenix Police Department’s local Neighborhood Enforcement Team zeroed in on the string of robberies and, using grainy surveillance footage from nearby businesses, eventually found what they determined was the getaway vehicle that they linked to Diaz.
Using that information, they tracked Diaz to his apartment near Warner Road and 48th Street and had him under surveillance when they watched him walk into Bashas’, look around, then return to his car to pick up some items.
In addition to the prison time, Gottsfield ordered Diaz to pay $1,134 in restitution.