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A Lesson in Why to Avoid Del Taco at 1:30 A.M.

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Does anything good ever happen at Del Taco at 1:30 in the morning?

A 20-year-old Newport Beach man obviously knows the answer to that after being threatened with death at gunpoint while eating on the Del Taco patio at 1720 Superior Ave., Costa Mesa, around that time Aug. 2, having his car followed to a nearby Denny's parking lot, and getting dragged out and beaten unconscious before having his wallet, cell phone and car keys stolen.

The fellow was gnawing away at his taco or burrito or whatever other shits-inducer he was gnawing on when he was surrounded by a gang of, well, gang bangers. They began flashing signs, tossing out rhetoric and doing other gang-y stuff.

One gangsta confronted the diner, pulled him 20 feet away from the patio, whipped a handgun out of his waistband and threatened to blow the poor sap's head off. Needless to say, it was about then the 20-year-old wished he'd instead found an all-night Arby's . . . next to a police station.

He was able to break free and run into the Del Taco, where he waited until he believed the bad guys had left. He then climbed into his car and drove off. However, at the confusing intersection of Superior and 17th Street, he realized his would-be attackers were following in a white Toyota 4runner. So, he pulled into the Denny's at 105 E. 17th St. After all, who goes to Denny's at 1:30 besides drunks, child molesters and drunk child molesters?

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"HELP!"
Turns out, at least when it comes to the Denny's parking lot, gang bangers go there, too. That's where they pulled up on our sad sack and physically dragged him out of his car. He was then punched, kicked and knocked out cold. That's when the baddies took his stuff, but they could not get his car started with the keys, so they all left in the 4runner.

Police arrived and put out a broadcast for the suspects and the 4runner. A vehicle matching that description was spotted in Newport Beach, and when officers made a stop, one guy got out and ran. Six others remained in the 4runner.

According to the Costa Mesa Police Department Gang Enforcement Unit, which investigated the mini-crime spree, the fellows in what turned out to be a 4runner stolen from Newport Beach belong to the Varrio El Modena gang in Orange. They have been allegedly coming to the Newport-Mesa area to commit crimes and further their gang rep. Perhaps they were hoping a Real Housewives camera might catch them.

Speaking of caught, that did not happen that particular early morning to the gang member who bolted. Police also suspect he had with him the handgun that has yet to be recovered. However, on Tuesday, the gang detail arrested who they believe to be that outstanding seventh suspect. All but one of them hail from Orange.

The only name police released was that of the only adult suspect, Juan Carlos Juarez, 18. Three 17-year-olds will be tried by the district attorney as adults, according to the gang unit. Also arrested was a 16-year-old from Santa Ana and a 15- and 14-year-old. Charges include carjacking, armed robbery, brandishing a firearm, conspiracy and criminal threats with sentencing enhancements for gang activity.

Our Del Taco diner? He was released from a local hospital after being treated for moderate head and facial injuries. Hopefully he did not lose the memory of where he won't ever want to be again at 1:30 in the morning.     


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