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INDIANAPOLIS — An Indianapolis man was sentenced to more than 25 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to a series of violent robberies at local businesses.

The United States Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Indiana said the robberies took place between January 24 and March 1 of 2021. During the robberies, John Mendez-Rodriquez (AKA Irving Gomez) admitted to brandishing a firearm and hitting employees.

According to a probable cause affidavit filed in the case, Mendez-Rodriquez was a former team member at an Advance Auto Parts store. A witness told an officer with the Speedway Police Department that they suspected he was stealing from the store.

The allegations led to his termination on January 10, 2021, two weeks before Gomez started his crime spree. During the spree, his employer discovered Mendez-Rodriquez allegedly made a copy of the fleet vehicles’ keys. This vehicle would give investigators GPS and photographic evidence of what happened during the crime spree.

On January 24, Mendez-Rodriquez went to another former employer of his, O’Reilly Auto Parts. At the time, he was wearing an O’Reilly jacket along with dark clothes and a mask covering the lower portion of his face.

Once inside the store, the court document reads Mendez-Rodriquez approached the check-out counter with a loaded rifle. After demanding money from the safe and registers, he went to the back room and looked for the store’s deposit bag.

Mendez fled the store before the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department arrived and began an investigation. While talking to employees, detectives were able to identify Mendez-Rodriquez as the suspect.

About two weeks later, Mendez-Rodriquez went to a CVS in Speedway wearing nearly the same clothing. This time, after demanding money, the court document states the employee stood there, unable to understand what Mendez-Rodriquez was saying.

Mendez-Rodriquez hit the employee several times in the back with the muzzle of the rifle in what appeared to be an effort to push them towards the check-out counter. The employee opened the drawer and Mendez-Rodriquez stole the entire drawer.

Mendez-Rodriquez was finally apprehended after another robbery at the same O’Reilly Auto Parts store on March 1. During the robbery, he ordered one of the employees to crawl to the safe. While taking money from the safe, the employee managed to grab the rifle and pin Mendez-Rodriquez against the wall.

The court document states Mendez-Rodriquez grabbed a metal rod hanging from the wall, hitting the employee over the head multiple times. During the struggle, another employee called 911.

After pinning Mendez-Rodriquez again, the court document states Mendez-Rodriquez pulled a pocket knife and tried to stab the employee. During the struggle, Mendez-Rodriquez threatened to kill the employee’s family if they didn’t let him go.

Police arrived while the struggle was taking place and took Mendez-Rodriquez into custody. In the following days, police were able to obtain a copy of the recorded movements of the vehicle Mendez-Rodriquez reportedly stole during the days and hours surrounding the robberies.

The records also gave police video evidence, including still images from an internal camera in the car that court documents indicate allowed a witness to identify Mendez-Rodriquez as the driver.

Mendez-Rodriquez ended up pleading guilty to the CVS robbery and the O’Reilly Auto Parts store robberies. While being sentenced, evidence of two additional robberies at CVS stores in the area was presented.

“Mr. Gomez chose to engage in a series of violent attacks against innocent victims,” said U.S. Attorney Zachary A. Myers. “Along with our law enforcement partners, we will continue to concentrate our efforts on identifying and arresting those individuals that commit or threaten violence while engaging in this type of illegal activity. The serious sentence imposed today should send a message that violent offenders who disrupt the safety of our communities will be held accountable for their actions.”

Mendez-Rodriquez was sentenced to 303 months, or 25 years and 3 months, in federal prison. As part of the sentence, a judge ordered that Mendez-Rodriquez be supervised by the U.S. Probation Office for 5 years following his release from federal prison and pay $4,325.00 in restitution, reflecting losses relating to five separate robberies.

“I would like to thank the IMPD officers, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the United States Attorney’s Office for getting Mr. Gomez off the streets of Indianapolis. A violent perpetrator is behind bars, and our community safer because of their due diligence and hard work,” said IMPD Chief Randal Taylor. “This case is just the latest example of the value our federal partners bring to fighting violent crime. May the affected families get the peace they deserve.”

This case was part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, a program that brings together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime.