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Cardinals in robbery flap
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The reputation of Ceres Cardinals youth football teams has been tarnished in the wake of Ceres police allegations that leaders were uncooperative in the investigation of a robbery that occurred at a pizza parlor where team leaders, players and parents were holding a party.

Ceres detectives say that Rico's Pizza was robbed on Monday, Oct. 22 by two men during a gathering of the Cardinals but noted that the leaders of that group initially did not cooperate in the quest to identify them.

Police officials say the robbers were attending the banquet at the Hatch Road pizza parlor leading up to the attack and are known by Cardinals members. They have since been identified as the parent of a player and an assistant coach. Detective Tonya Smith said once the story aired on Channel 3 and was published on Facebook and in the Bee, tips began pouring in. Smith expected to make an arrest Tuesday but declined to give the Courier the names of the suspects.

Anthony Estrada, president of the Ceres Cardinals football junior novice and junior varsity teams, hosted the banquet at Rico's and was joined by players between the ages of six to 13 years of age, parents, coaches and the organization's board of directors.

Surveillance cameras recorded the gathering at the restaurant, which was kept open two hours past the 10 p.m. closing to accommodate the group. The two suspects were recorded eating, drinking beer from pitchers and socializing with the attendees. Detectives say the two appeared to be known by Cardinals officials.

Detective Smith said about five or six adults and seven to eight children remained at nearly midnight. She said a hard-working restaurant clerk was being intimated by the men and at one point bought a pitcher of beer out of his own money to appease them. One of the men insisted that he did not get his change from a purchase yet the surveillance video shows the clerk handing back change, said Smith. The clerk insisted that the man was given his change.

At around 11:55 p.m., one man is seen walking up to the parlor clerk ¬- who removed the cash drawer to count the money - and starting a verbal confrontation. The second man is seen walking around the counter to have a conversation with the clerk and then suddenly throwing punches at the clerk without provocation. The suspect struck the victim several times, knocking him to the ground. The first suspect then walked over to the cash register, threw it on the ground, and took the money from it and placing it in a jar for tips.

Surveillance video captured images of parents, children, and other attendees rushing out the front door of the parlor. Both suspects met at the front door after the robbery and are seen exiting the front door together.

The clerk suffered minor injuries that did not require emergency medical attention.

Detectives interviewed all of the youth organization leaders and coaches present during the robbery but said they were refusing to cooperate. Among those who were tight-lipped about the suspects' identity were Cardinal's leader Anthony Estrada, who was seen on the tape sharing a table with the suspects. Estrada has denied stonewalling in the investigation. However, officials with the Trans Valley Youth Football League suspended Estrada as well assistant vice president Jesus Montes.

The man who started the confrontation was described as a Hispanic male in his late 20s, about six feet tall, weighing about 250 pounds, sporting a black Raiders hat and black Raiders Jersey with the number 20 on it. The second suspect is a Hispanic male in his late 20s, 5-foot-6, approximately 240 pounds, with brown hair in a braided ponytail, brown eyes, goatee, wearing a white Raiders jersey with the number 75.