The person arrested after Wednesday’s dramatic standoff at Chandler Fashion Center didn’t turn out to be fugitive Daniel Perez.
But law enforcement officials believe he is still in the area and may have connections to the person who was apprehended — Adam Armando Hernandez Jr., 27 — following the standoff at the Chandler mall.
“We believe that Daniel Perez is in the area,” said Thomas Henman, a supervisory deputy with the U.S. Marshal’s Service. “Daniel Perez has associates in many parts of the Valley. We believe that there is some kind of connection between Perez and Adam Hernandez; we just don’t know how extensive.”
Perez and Hernandez — both ex-convicts — were in the same Arizona prison in Tucson during two months of their sentences, according to prison records. David Gonzales, U.S. Marshal in Phoenix, told the Tribune that investigators have established other links between Perez and Hernandez, but would not elaborate on their connection.
“Daniel Perez is extremely dangerous, and we’re using all the resources we can to catch him,” Gonzales said.
If anyone sees Perez, Henman said they should not approach him but call 911.
Perez, 25, became a fugitive after he was mistakenly released from custody by a Pinal County Justice of the Peace court. Perez was being held on two counts of aggravated assault against Arizona Department of Public Safety officers after a Dec. 10 shooting incident in Casa Grande. His bond was set at $500,000.
He also had an outstanding misdemeanor charge from 2009. Because of a paperwork mixup that authorities still haven’t explained, Perez was released by the Justice of the Peace court on Dec. 16 after posting $320 bond on the outstanding misdemeanor charge.
Perez finished a two-year prison sentence with the Arizona Department of Corrections in June for a dangerous drug violation and unlawful means of transportation convictions, according to prison records.
Hernandez was released from prison in April, 2009 after serving an 8 1/2-year sentence for aggravated assault.
Hernandez is currently being held on a $1 million bond and faces numerous counts of kidnapping, armed robbery and assault on an officer, plus robbery, theft and weapons charges following the incident at Chandler mall. Hernandez was arrested Wednesday after he allegedly opened fire on officers in the parking lot at Chandler Fashion Center, then fled to a nearby Baja Fresh restaurant and fired shots at officers again while holding two female workers hostage for about three hours, according to court documents released Thursday.
Hernandez eventually released the women and came out peacefully. No one was injured.
Members of the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force initially thought Perez was involved in the incident. Henman said authorities were conducting surveillance at a Mesa apartment and spotted a stolen blue Kia SUV connected to recent robberies in the area, then called in other officers and began to follow it.
The driver apparently spotted the officers and began taking evasive actions, Chandler police spokesman Sgt. Joe Favazzo said. The officers backed off and used a helicopter to keep track of him as he approached the mall.
They closed in as he pulled into the Chandler Fashion Center parking lot, where the driver jumped out and ran into a department store with officers in chase, Favazzo said. He then ran out a service door, and opened fire on an officer in an SUV outside.
The Mesa police officer in the SUV had to duck to avoid shots fired by the suspect, identified as Hernandez. One shot fired by Hernandez hit the SUV’s driver’s seat headrest, according to a court document filed in support of charges against Hernandez.
The gunman then fled back into the mall, where officers lost him, setting off a panicked exodus of customers and mall workers as arriving SWAT team officers tried to close off the exits and contain the suspect inside, authorities said. The mall was locked down for almost five hours as police searched for the gunman.
Documents show the gunman eluded authorities by exiting the mall and fleeing across a busy street to the Baja Fresh restaurant located in a strip mall. Once there, he allegedly tried to flag down cars, then spotted detectives, made an obscene gesture and pulled out a pistol before running into Baja Fresh. He ordered patrons out and fired shots at detectives he saw outside, according to the document, and the two female workers were held hostage for about three hours as negotiators tried to talk him into surrendering. A third employee was hiding in the restaurant.
Just before 3 p.m. Hernandez came outside, took his shirt off and laid on the ground as he was surrounded by police.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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