Palm Desert Whole Foods robbery suspect identified using peanut butter jar

Police have identified the suspect in a 2018 robbery at the Palm Desert Whole Foods store by using a container of peanut butter the man used to distract the victim.

The Desert Sun has the details of the incident, which happened on May 6 of last year.

Dispensers start and stop grinding nuts into nut butter with the push of either a green or red button. The suspect was filling a container with fresh peanut butter at the store on Town Center Way when he asked a customer for help shutting off the machine, Riverside County sheriff’s investigators wrote in a declaration in support of an arrest warrant.

“She left her purse and focused on turning the machine off,” a deputy wrote. “When she turned back, she saw Ayala was walking away and he appeared to be in a hurry.”

The victim and other customers chased the man out of the store, but he got away.  Investigators checked the security footage and noticed the suspect had placed the peanut butter jar on a shelf on his way out.  Fingerprints were found on the container and matched to Ramon Ayala, 31, of Van Nuys.

Ayala was charged with grand theft last week. He is not yet in custody.