A simple pawn shop transaction at the Mo Money Pawn Shop in Phoenix, Arizona, ultimately led police to capture notorious ‘Serial Street Shooter’ suspect Aaron Juan Saucedo. Saucedo entered the pawn shop in August of 2015 to sell his Hi-Point 9MM handgun, which police say is the weapon responsible for the shooting death of a man, Raul Romero, who dated Saucedo’s mother.
Saucedo’s visit to the Mo Money Pawn Shop in August wasn’t his first, nor to be his last, trip to the pawn shop. The suspect made five firearm-related purchases before selling the Hi-Point pistol, returning just 13 days after the death of Romero. He then returned an additional four times in 2016.
Police say Saucedo’s purchases coincide with four firearm-related homicides in 2016. The first, the shooting death of 22-year-old Jesse Olivas in January, was followed by a trip to the pawn shop 18 days later. Saucedo allegedly went on to kill a total of nine innocent bystanders by March 17, 2016. Then, all shooting activity stopped suddenly.
Anyone purchasing a firearm at a pawn shop is required to submit their information for a federal background check, just as if they were making a purchase at a gun shop. Saucedo was run for each purchase, and passed each time, according to Mo Money Pawn Shop General Manager Byron Vaughn.
Vaughn also teaches his staff to closely monitor anyone entering the shop and observe their behavior. They’re instructed to notice details that might lead to so-called ‘straw purchases’, where one individual might purchase something for another, knowing the intended recipient isn’t likely to pass the background check.
However, each time Saucedo was in the pawn shop, he was alone.
Officials with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives collected records from the pawn shop on May 2, including the background checks performed on Saucedo. This documentation is used not only to check firearm serial numbers against flagged weapons, but to search for property reported stolen as well.
On Monday, police officials said Saucedo was the only suspect in connection with the ‘serial street shootings’. Within the pawn shop, Vaughn says Saucedo’s behavior was in no way suspect. Assistant Manager Henry Escobar said none of the staff had a “gut feeling” when dealing with Saucedo during his visits.
Escobar estimates 20% or 30% of customers are turned away, whether for failure to pass the federal background checks, or because of staff’s instincts after interacting with the customer in question. He said, “I can read them out when they come in. After decades in this business, you know what to look for.”
Escobar added that some customers will make a scene, and most leave angry. Vaughn encourages his staff to listen to their instincts, saying, “It’s for the safety of our business and for others.”
Saucedo was arrested initially on April 19, 2017 for the shooting death of Raul Romero. On May 8, 2017, he was re-booked for an additional 26 charges relating to the ‘serial street shooter’ incidents.
Police Chief Jerri Williams says, “We hope that our community will rest a little easier and that our officers will get a little more sleep (knowing) that our wheels of justice are finally in motion at work.” She added that another charge was added to Saucedo’s booking, that of the 2015 shooting incident where shots were fired into a house. The home was empty, and no one was injured in that shooting.
Saucedo is currently facing charges relating the homicides of 9 individuals.
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