Apple Store robbery suspect pleads not guilty

CHULA VISTA (CNS) – A man accused in an attempted “smash and grab” burglary at a Chula Vista Apple store, in which one of his two alleged accomplices was killed in a shootout with a security guard, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to attempted murder and other charges.

Johnny Chenda, 25, was ordered held on $500,000 bail.

In addition to attempted murder, Chenda is charged with conspiracy to commit a burglary and robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, burglary, attempted robbery and being a felon in possession of a firearm, along with gun and gang allegations.

He faces more than 50 years in prison if convicted, said Deputy District Attorney Carlos Varela.

Alex Somphonh Choulamontry, a 23-year-old parolee and documented gang member, was shot in the head by a security guard as he, Chenda and 21-year-old Melissa Ortiz allegedly tried to flee the store at the Otay Ranch Town Center about 6:40 a.m. Monday, Chula Vista police said.

No charges have been filed so far against Ortiz, Varela told reporters.

Jose Jimenez, a retired deputy sheriff who works for a security firm based in Los Angeles County, interrupted the burglars and exchanged gunfire with Choulamontry and Chenda, according to police Capt. Gary Ficacci.

Choulamontry died at the scene, but Chenda and Ortiz allegedly ran from the getaway car after it crashed into a light pole and were arrested on the patio of a nearby home.

Police said at least one of the suspects pulled a gun on Jimenez shortly after smashing a store window and entering the business.

South Bay Judge Roderick Shelton scheduled a readiness conference for May 11 and a preliminary hearing for June 1.

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