By the Daily Post staff
Following a call from an alert witness, police swarmed a downtown parking lot and arrested a pair of armed auto burglary suspects after their vehicle sideswiped one patrol car and then collided with another.
The suspects both had loaded guns, and police recovered property recently stolen from three auto burglaries in their vehicle. Officers booked the suspects into jail.
On Thursday at about 6:30 p.m., police received a call from an alert witness reporting suspicious behavior in city Parking Lot “H” at 530 Cowper St., the lot behind HanaHaus and El Prado Hotel (formerly Garden Court House).
The witness said a black Audi A-8 sedan was circling the lot while an occupant would get out and peer into vehicles. Police said this behavior is consistent with that of auto burglars looking for vehicles. The witness provided a license plate for the Audi, but that license plate returned to a Toyota.
Officers responded quickly and surrounded the parking lot, trapping the suspect vehicle and its two occupants.
When an officer went to stop them, the Audi accelerated and drove at the occupied patrol car, striking it twice as it passed by, police said.
The Audi then immediately collided with a second occupied patrol car; the impact from that collision caused the suspect vehicle to strike three parked and unoccupied vehicles. The suspect vehicle continued driving and collided with two more parked and unoccupied vehicles before finally coming to a stop. Police then took both occupants safely into custody without incident.
Inside the suspect vehicle, police found two loaded firearms, police said. One was a 9mm Glock handgun that had been illegally modified to be a fully automatic weapon, and it was equipped with a fully-loaded 30-round extended magazine. The other was a 9mm Glock semi-automatic handgun equipped with a fully-loaded 17-round magazine.
Also inside the suspect’s vehicle, police found items from three auto burglaries that had just occurred that afternoon or evening: one from City Parking Lot “H,” one from City Parking Lot “D” at 351 Hamilton Ave., and one from the 700 block of High Street.
In each case, windows had been smashed on unoccupied, parked and locked vehicles, with bags containing laptop computers and other personal property stolen from inside. Police recovered all of the stolen property and returned it to the victims.
The license plate on the suspect vehicle belonged to a Toyota registered out of Pacifica. Neither the suspect’s vehicle nor the license plate on it had been reported stolen to police. The 2013 Audi’s registration had been transferred to an auto dealership out of Oakley but had not yet been registered to any individual.
Police booked the two suspects, Tommy Walter Miller, 25, of South San Francisco and Nino Joseph Fiapoto, 25, of San Francisco, into the Santa Clara County Main Jail for an array of charges.
Police booked both suspects for three counts of auto burglary (each a felony), conspiracy (felony), carrying a loaded firearm with the intent to commit a felony (itself a felony), possession of a large-capacity magazine (a misdemeanor), and carrying a concealed firearm (a misdemeanor).
Additionally, police booked the driver, Miller, for assault with a deadly weapon (a felony, for sideswiping the occupied police vehicle), possession of a machine gun (a felony, for possession of the fully automatic weapon), and carrying a loaded weapon when not the registered owner of it (a felony).
Police booked the passenger, Fiapoto, for being a convicted felon in possession of a loaded firearm (a felony) and ammunition (a felony).
Fiapoto is on probation out of San Mateo County for a prior conviction of a felon in possession of a firearm, and also had an outstanding felony warrant for the same offense out of the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office. Police booked him for that warrant as well.
Both officers who were inside the patrol vehicles that were struck complained of pain from those collisions but declined medical attention. The driver of the suspect vehicle complained of pain to his head (presumably also from the collisions). Paramedics from the Palo Alto Fire Department evaluated him and released him at the scene.
Both patrol vehicles sustained minor damage but were able to be driven from the scene. The suspect vehicle sustained moderate damage and was towed by police as evidence. Of the five parked and unoccupied vehicles struck by the suspect vehicle, four sustained minor damage and one sustained major damage.
Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call police at (650) 329-2413. Anonymous tips can be e-mailed to email@example.com or sent via text message or voicemail to (650) 383-8984.