Man Arrested in Armed Robbery, Assault of Lyft Driver

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Fundraiser held for victim, who is recovering.

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Lyft driver Paul Liao was assaulted by a suspect sheriff’s investigators have identified as Dandre Lorenz Powell of Downey.

Rafu Wire and Staff Reports

Sheriff’s investigators said Thursday they viewed dashboard camera footage to quickly identify a 26-year-old probationer accused in a brazen armed robbery and assault of a Lyft driver at a gas station in South El Monte, then used phone records to locate and arrest him.

The attack occurred at 9:20 p.m. May 11 at the Arco station at Rush Street and Rosemead Boulevard.

The robbery and beating was captured on the driver’s dashboard camera, and the footage — which was released last Thursday, prompting tips from the public — shows a man in the car’s back seat wearing a Pittsburgh Pirates cap and holding a handgun. The man is seen arguing with the 67-year-old driver, Paul Liao, for more than one minute.

The robber demanded money and then grabbed the driver’s cellphone. He then apparently tried to get the driver to leave the car so he could steal it, but Liao persuaded him not to do so.

Liao eventually handed over his wallet, which held more than $1,500. Twice during the robbery, the man hit the driver in the face with a gun, leaving him with a bruised and bloody nose.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Richard Lewis said that within an hour of viewing the video evidence, detectives were able to make a strong assumption on the robber’s identity.

“Utilizing past records of this individual, booking photos and things of that nature, we came up with a positive identification of who this individual was,” Lewis said.

Lewis said detectives used search warrants for telephone records and usage to locate and conduct surveillance on the suspect, identified as Dandre Lorenz Powell of Downey. Officers later observed the man leaving a residence and performed a traffic stop to take him into custody.

Powell’s arrest came after a multi-day effort involving cooperation with outside agencies, said Temple Station Capt. Mark Reyes.

“Detectives worked around the clock to locate the suspect,” he said. “They authored search warrants, conducted searches at various locations and within five days of learning of the crime, through a collaborative with the United States Marshal’s Office, the suspect… was arrested and found to be in possession of another firearm.”

Sheriff Alex Villanueva told reporters the suspect, who’s been held in lieu of $2 million bail, “has an extensive criminal history, is known to law enforcement and is currently on probation.”

Investigators asked anyone who may have been victimized by the suspect to contact the LASD Temple Station at (626) 285-7171.

A GoFundMe page for Liao was established a week ago by his daughter-in-law, Christine Ting, but has since been discontinued after raising more than $32,000.

“Hi, this gofundme is for my father-in-law Paul,” Ting wrote when she set up the page. “He is a Lyft and Uber driver. He also provides designated driving services when he’s not driving for Lyft/Uber. He loves driving and he has been providing rideshare services throughout the entire pandemic.

“Paul was mugged and robbed of his cellphone and $1,560 cash from his designated driver service earnings on 5/11 at the ARCO gas station on Rush and Rosemead Blvd. in South El Monte. The man had his hand on the trigger of his gun and tried to carjack him. He hit him in the face twice and the entire process was recorded by his dash cam …

“Please help Paul to recover some of the money he lost and to help pay for a new cellphone and some medical expenses. Thank you.”

On May 19, Ting wrote, “When I first started this gofundme, I had decided for it to run for a week. Today marks a week since I found out about what happened to my father-in-law, so I am stopping the fundraiser and donations will no longer be accepted.

“We were completely shocked by the outpouring of kindness within the first couple of days and the continuous support from all over the world this past week. I have tried my best to thank each and every one of the donors (you know who you are!). I’m sorry if I missed any one of you: THANK YOU!!!

“We never expected his story to gain so much exposure and we are grateful for all the shares on social media. I think it is definitely part of the reason why the police was able to catch the suspect so quickly. We are also thankful for the LASD for putting this man behind bars.

“Paul wants to let everyone know that he is making good progress at recovering both emotionally and physically. He is not in as much pain anymore. He is very touched by everyone’s generosity and all of the people who have sent love and blessings his way.

“It has been a roller-coaster ride for us and we’ve been through mixed emotions from feeling infuriated to feeling blessed to feeling anxious to feeling scared.

“We are making sure he is focusing on the brighter side of things and not be discouraged by any negativity that has risen from the incident. For those of you who are very concerned about the funds, please know they will all go to my father-in-law and he will donate the extra money to support important cause(s) of his choice.

“Once again, we appreciate everyone for showing us that there is more good than bad in this world!”

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