After Fatal Police Chase, Officers Charge Five With Armed Robbery

Unmarked police car struck and killed the driver during Beltway pursuit


Yeruin J. Romero-Rivera, Marcio Roney Avila-Castro, Juan R. Ramirez-Delgado and Miguel A. Ayala-Rivera. Police did not provide a photograph of Edwin Geovanny Zelaya-Ramirez because he is a minor. Via MCPD

Five people have been charged with armed robbery after a police chase that turned fatal Friday when an unmarked police car struck and killed a sixth man, who was driving their getaway van.

The men allegedly robbed a Cash Depot store in Wheaton at about 12:30 p.m., prompting police to look out for a white Chevrolet van. When officers spotted a van near Takoma Park a short time later, they followed it onto the Beltway.

Juan Carlos Gomez, who police say was the driver, got out of the van near the U.S. 1 exit of Interstate 495 in College Park and was struck by an unmarked police cruiser. Police said officers attempted life-saving measures, but he died on the scene. Gomez was 37 and had an unconfirmed address.

On Saturday, police identified the officer who was driving the unmarked car as Sgt. William Thomas, who was on duty at the time and has worked for Montgomery County police for 24 years. He has been placed on paid administrative leave as Maryland State Police investigate the fatality.

Officers arrested two men who remained in the van. They also chased two other men who fled from the vehicle on foot, according to police. Those two men were arrested shortly after, and police arrested a fifth man, 23-year-old Miguel A. Ayala-Rivera, separately on Friday night.

Ayala-Rivera; Marcio Roney Avila-Castro, 21; Yeruin J. Romero-Rivera, 21; Juan R. Ramirez-Delgado, 34; and Edwin Geovanny Zelaya-Ramirez, 17, were charged with armed robbery, first-degree assault and use of a firearm during a violent felony. Zelaya-Ramirez was charged as an adult.

None of the men provided a confirmed address, according to police.

Police did not indicate which suspects stayed in the van and which were arrested after a foot chase.

The men allegedly entered a Cash Depot at 11246 Georgia Ave. covering their faces and brandishing firearms, according to police. They threatened the employee and demanded cash, which they took with them into a white Chevrolet van.

Plainclothes officers saw a van matching that description near Anne Street and University Boulevard at about 12:50 p.m. and began the pursuit. During the chase, the van hit at least one other vehicle, according to police.

Police said they found multiple firearms in the van.

Ayala-Rivera was also charged with another count of armed robbery for his alleged involvement in a Sept. 22 robbery of an Exxon gas station at 12245 Veirs Mill Road in the Wheaton area.

In a press release, police wrote that detectives have been investigating a series of commercial armed robberies in the area that appear to be related, including the robbery at Exxon. In each robbery, several men armed with handguns would threaten employees and demand cash. The other men charged with Friday’s robbery have not been charged in connection with the other robberies.

Juan Carlos Gomez, who died after a police car struck him Friday. Via MCPD

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