SWAT nabs armed robbery suspects

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“Get on the floor and count to 10.”

The audio recorder catches crashing sounds, a frenzied search for cash in the E-Z Mart. The cashier hurries to comply, facing a weapon.

“I’ll give you whatever you want. I promise I will. Just don’t hurt me, OK?”

A little less than a month after an armed robbery at a Hwy. 135 convenience store, a SWAT raid at a Liberty City home saw two suspects taken into custody Tuesday.

Housemates Clarence Bedford III and Jonathan Hayden Zuniga, both 22-year-old Kilgore residents, were arrested Nov. 21 and jailed on aggravated robbery charges.

In late-October, two thin males wearing dark clothes, their faces concealed, entered E-Z Mart 715 on the corner of FM 1252 and Hwy. 135 shortly after 4 a.m. on a Sunday morning. The pair exhibited a weapon during Oct. 22 robbery, officials report, and took an unspecified amount of money.

Gregg County Sheriff’s Office soon distributed a surveillance image taken during the robbery, showing a light-colored sedan in the convenience store’s rain-soaked parking lot. A few days after the incident, GCSO released an audio recording of the cashier’s ordeal.

“Hurry up,” a male voice orders.

“I’m doing it, OK?” the E-Z Mart employee respond. “Please don’t hurt me, I have kids.”

Looking for anyone who recognized the car or the voices on the recording, lead investigator Matt Alford’s search for leads apparently bore fruit, culminating in the arrests earlier this week.

“It was just good work from our investigative team,” said Cpl. Josh Tubb, GCSO spokesman. “The whole office worked on it,” from investigators to support staff, assisting while deputies were out in the field.

“It was just a real good effort led by investigator Alford. There’s a lead on it, and they utilize all of the other investigators in the best manner possible.”

The case is ongoing, Tubb emphasized, though the suspects are in custody in Gregg County Jail.

“They are still working,” he said, after the arrest of Bedford and Zuniga. “Even though they are in jail, (GCSO personnel) are still working on the investigation portion,” including looking at other cases the pair might be responsible for.

“Right now, I can’t say for sure one way or the other if they may be connected to anything else or not. That’s going to pan out as the investigation progresses.”

According to a GCSO release, on Tuesday department and the Longview Gregg County SWAT Team executed an arrest warrant at a home in the Liberty City area, a Kilgore address outside the city limits.

“Both men were transported to Gregg County Jail without further incident.”

Zuniga and Bedford are charged with aggravated robbery, and each faces a $75,000 bond.

According to Gregg County Judicial Records, the two men live at the same address, located 2 miles from the convenience store.

“It’s unfortunate that we have to, one, deal with any type of crime like this in our hometown here in Gregg County,” Tubb added, “and it’s even more unfortunate that people who actually share our community with us would do something like this to someone else in our community.”

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