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SANTA CRUZ — A pre-dawn robbery evolved into a shootout and vehicle chase Monday through the Harvey West neighborhood.
Both police and a business representative for an industrial cannabis facility on the 300 block of Encinal Street were put on alert when burglars tripped a security alarm at the site prior to 4:30 a.m., Santa Cruz Police Deputy Chief Jon Bush said. The business representative, however, arrived at the facility ahead of officers, catching at least two thieves leaving the site. The representative apparently attempted to apprehend the thieves by ramming his car into one of two believed fleeing vehicles, according to Bush.
“At some point, shots are exchanged between the victim and the suspect, and vice versa, is our understanding,” Bush said. “The suspects ultimately ended up fleeing. They’re still outstanding.”
A Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office deputy soon after located one of the vehicles, a white SUV with rear-end damage, abandoned near northbound Highway 17’s Pasatiempo exit. The vehicle had been reported stolen out of the Bay Area, Bush said.
“We currently are interviewing the (business) owner to determine if there is any criminal charges that he may face in regards to his use of a firearm to attempt to apprehend the suspects,” Bush said late Monday afternoon. “Albeit they were committing a commercial burglary, we are investigating whether or not the force (the business owner) used, particularly in the ramming of the car and the use of the firearm, was lawful and reasonable for the situation.”
Bush said that, generally, a credible threat to life is required to justify the use of deadly force — such as if the thieves fired first. As of late Monday afternoon, the department had not located the thieves nor made any formal arrests, he said. He was not able to immediately provide a description of the thieves.
In March, two cannabis-related facilities in the same neighborhood were similarly struck in back-to-back overnight robberies, also involving the use of multiple stolen vehicles or mismatched license plates. Bush said those most recent robberies remained under investigation and that no arrests had been made in either case.