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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Puerto Rico

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, July 13, 2015

Defendant Sentenced To 540 Months In Prison

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – William Santiago-Reyes was sentenced to 540 months (45 years) in prison for his participation in various crimes, including Hobbs Act robbery, carjacking and firearms violations, announced Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. The defendant pled guilty on February 4, 2015, before United States District Court Senior Judge Daniel R. Domínguez.

On or about May 5, 2012, in the District of Puerto Rico, the defendant herein, aiding and abetting another individual, knowingly carried and used a firearm, during and in relation to a crime of violence, resulting in death of Ranger American Security Guard Nelson Mills Bernabe.

During the afternoon of May 5, 2012, at approximately 1:20 p.m., the defendant, William Santiago-Reyes and an associate by the name of Juan Benítez-Rodríguez (Benítez-Rodríguez) entered the Plaza Loíza Supermarket, wearing Suiza Dairy company polo shirts. The subjects were captured on video, which shows them scouting the area, looking for the manager. When they found the manager, Santiago-Reyes flashed the revolver that he was carrying and directed him to take the defendants to the money room.

Once inside the office, Benítez-Rodríguez ordered the manager to give them all the cash contained in the safe. Minutes later, a Ranger American Security Guard, Nelson Mills Bernabe, arrived at the supermarket for a scheduled money pick-up. Mills Bernabe proceeded to the manager’s office door where Santiago-Reyes assaulted him from behind, and a scuffle ensued between the two men. Both Santiago-Reyes and Benítez-Rodríguez attempted to subdue the guard, but Mills Bernabe was able to remove his pistol from the holster, and fired some shots at the two subjects, striking both of them.

Santiago-Reyes responded by firing shots at Mills Bernabe from the revolver he was carrying, wounding him on the right arm and shoulder. The defendants attempted to flee from a back door located in the cafeteria area but they were unable to do so. Benítez-Rodríguez collapsed by the door, and was pronounced dead at the scene. The video shows Santiago-Reyes as he picked up Mill Bernabe’s pistol and placed it inside his waistband; he flipped the body of Benítez-Rodríguez over and searched through his pockets, removing cash and car keys. He also picked up the red cooler, which contained the money stolen from the supermarket, $18,970.07, and exited through the front doors of the supermarket.

Santiago-Reyes got into a green Mitsubishi Lancer and attempted to exit the parking lot.   The driver of the armored truck, attempted to block his exit, but was unable to do so. The police arrived and were able to apprehend the defendant without incident. Santiago-Reyes had been seriously injured, and was bleeding profusely at the time of his apprehension. He was transported to a local hospital, where he eventually recovered from his injuries. The security guard, Nelson Mills Bernabe was transported to a local hospital, but was unable to recover from his trauma, and was pronounced dead later that day.

The FBI Investigation revealed that William Santiago Reyes and Benítez-Rodríguez had broken out of local jail on or about April 15, 2012, approximately three weeks prior to the commission of the Plaza Loíza Supermarket armed robbery. They also were involved in another carjacking and an armed robbery to a Financial Institution while they were runaways from the local authorities.    

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD) and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) were in charge of the investigation. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Olga B. Castellón.

Topic(s): 
Violent Crime
Component(s): 
Updated July 13, 2015