Dodi Wasbotten, 51, of Fontana, was arrested on suspicion of robbing four women, at least three at gunpoint, outside department stores since Sunday, officials with the Fontana Police Department said at a news conference Wednesday.
Officials said a crime analyst who works at the police department was driving around town on her lunch break when she spotted a "perfect match" of the suspect's vehicle. It was an older model dark sedan with tinted windows and a missing hubcap, possibly a Dodge Neon.
"That lack of a hubcap caught my eye," said the analyst, Carynn Terrill. "I turned around to follow her. Everything was falling into place."
Officers moved in on the car and found property belonging to the latest victim. They also found an unloaded gun. Wasbotten was arrested at the scene.
"It was the elderly female suspect that has been dubbed the 'Granny Bandit,'" an official said. "Yes, she is a grandmother."
Fontana police said a woman matching the description of the bandit stole a purse at gunpoint about 9:45 a.m. Wednesday in the parking lot of a Target store in Fontana. The suspect held a woman and her child at gunpoint and fled with the victim's purse.
Nicki Ruddy said she had just put her daughter in the back seat of her car when she was mugged in broad daylight.
"She approached me first as if it was one of those homeless people asking you for money in the parking lot, but then I saw her car blocking me in, and I asked her 'What are you blocking me in for?' She said, 'I need you to give me your purse," and I noticed she was pointing a gun at me," Ruddy said.
The alleged "Granny Bandit" first began robbing people on Sunday. A woman was robbed of her purse at a Kohl's department store as she was walking to her car.
Then the "Granny Bandit" struck again at a Target parking lot across town at about 9:30 p.m. Monday. Police said a woman's purse was stolen.
Another woman was robbed at a Wal-Mart parking lot on Tuesday.
Police say the latest incident at Target was concerning because for the first time the robbery involved a child.
Despite her age, police said the "Granny Bandit" was armed and dangerous.
"The only thing we're willing to release at this time is she's having some difficulties like many people in the community," said Fontana police Lt. Angela Stover.
Authorities said they are serving search warrants on Wasbotten to acquire additional evidence.
"All we've done at this point is arrested the suspect," an official said. "The investigation is ongoing."
Neighbors said Wasbotten lived at home with her elderly mother.
"She seemed nice enough to me," said neighbor Gretchen Vysocky, adding she never thought she was capable of robbing people.
Wasbotten's Facebook page says she's looking for a job. She has denied any wrongdoing.
Wasbotten was booked at West Valley Detention Center for strong armed robbery.
Anyone with information related to the case is urged to contact the Fontana Police Department at (909) 350-7740.