Suspect who caused Naval Medical Center lockdown held on $300K bail


Russell Merck

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SAN DIEGO — A “hot-prowl” burglary suspect who caused a lockdown at Naval Medical Center San Diego after a foot chase with police near Balboa Park pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of burglary, receiving stolen property and using a stolen credit card.

Russell Joseph Merck, 22, was ordered held on $300,000 bail.

Deputy District Attorney Jalyn Wang told Judge Jay Bloom that Merck’s alleged crime spree started about three weeks ago when he broke into a home while the residents were sleeping and stole a personally engraved naval sword, which was in his possession when he tried to pawn it two days later.

A week later, Merck broke into another home while the victims were sleeping and stole a purse with some credit cards inside, Wang alleged. The defendant allegedly used the stolen credit cards four times the next day.

A week later, Merck ran from police on three consecutive days when they tried to arrest him, Wang said.

When an officer spotted Merck in a parking lot near Balboa Park last Friday, the nearby Naval Medical Center was placed on lockdown.

Merck was arrested the next day at the Chula Vista Public Library.

The defendant — who is on probation for robbery — faces more than 28 years in prison if convicted, according to Wang.

A readiness conference is scheduled July 24 and a preliminary hearing for July 28.

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