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April 1, 2023

Store robbery suspect had prior, missed hearing

The suspect in the Tres Pinos Country Store robbery from April has been charged with second-degree robbery, but remains in a Milpitas correctional facility for violating probation on a prior burglary conviction.

Michael R. Huertas, a 25-year-old Hollister resident, was arrested after an April 19 robbery at the Tres Pinos Country Store in San Benito County.

Court documents in San Benito County revealed that Huertas had a 2016 felony burglary conviction on his record and was on probation at the time of the Tres Pinos Country Store robbery in the 6800 block of Airline Highway. He is incarcerated at the Elmwood Correctional Facility in Milpitas due to the violation of his probation, according to court documents.

His incarceration caused him to miss a court appearance in Hollister for the robbery, documents show. That came after the San Benito County District Attorney’s Office charged Huertas with second-degree robbery for the April 19 incident.

Records show that he missed his arraignment hearing May 15, but it is noted in his file that he remained at the Elmwood facility at the time. Those documents include the police report that alleges Huertas admitted being “high” on heroin at the time of the robbery. Records also allege Huertas demanded money from the store clerk and that he took $300-plus in the robbery.

Court records also include a hand-written statement from Huertas on which he apologizes for the incident and mentions having three daughters.

According to the sheriff’s statement released after the arrest:

On Thursday, April 19, at approximately 2 p.m., a male subject entered the Tres Pinos Country Store at 6851 Airline Hwy in rural San Benito County.  He confronted the lone female clerk and simulated a handgun.  The clerk believed she saw a handgun in his possession.  The male demanded money from the cash register and the clerk complied.  The male fled the scene with an undisclosed amount of cash.  The clerk was unharmed.

Deputy Jason Leist responded and took the report for the robbery.  He then proceeded to work the case during the remainder of his shift.  After obtaining video surveillance footage from a nearby store, and statements from persons in the area, Deputy Leist developed a suspect in the case.  He recalled a similar male he and Deputy Russel Brown had stopped a couple weeks prior.

Deputy Leist recovered video footage of the prior stop from his newly issued BodyCam.  He was able to take a still image from the video, and used it to secure a positive identification the male was the person responsible for the robbery.

Working with his shift-mates, Deputies Canez, Simpson and later Deputy Mingus, they developed leads as to where the male was located.  Through use of ongoing surveillance, and confidential informants, Deputy Leist and his team searched many areas of Hollister and surrounding San Benito County neighborhoods as tips were coming in.  The crew was finally able to locate the suspect Michael HUERTA in the area of 1111 San Felipe Rd on Friday, April 20, at approximately 4:00pm.

HUERTA was taken into custody without incident.  He would later confess to the robbery while being interviewed by Deputy Leist.  He was booked into the San Benito County Jail on the charge of robbery.

Anyone with information on this case is urged to contact the San Benito County Sheriff’s Office on our anonymous tip-line at (831) 636-4084.  Or, you can TEXT-A-TIP to 888777 by typing TIP SBCSO followed by your message.  To sign up for NIXLE ALERTS text SBCSO to 888777 and follow the prompts.

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