‘Backdoor Bandit’ gets 8 years for armed robberies

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SAN DIEGO — A man who participated in a series of armed holdups at restaurants and other businesses in Clairemont and La Jolla was sentenced Monday to eight years in state prison.

Duran Caldwell, 25, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to robbery charges.

Caldwell, Thomas Abel Nelson, Ryan Patrick Churchill and a 17-year-old boy were arrested in August 2013 during a traffic stop not far from the scene of an armed robbery at a Smashburger restaurant on Prospect Avenue in La Jolla.

Inside the defendants’ car, officers found dark clothing, a black Airsoft semi-automatic replica handgun, a backpack filled with cash and a cashbox from Smashburger.

All defendants in the case have pleaded guilty.

The “Backdoor Bandits” moniker stemmed from the way the thieves almost always entered businesses through a rear door, according to San Diego police.

More than a dozen businesses were robbed during the series from May to August of 2013, including the El Cotixan restaurant on Clairemont Mesa Boulevard and Rigoberto’s Taco Shop on La Jolla Boulevard near Westbourne Street.