Two people were sent to the hospital with gunshot wounds Thursday afternoon and a suspect was still at large following a botched robbery and shootout at a Bennett Valley jewelry store, the second such incident at the business in a little less than a year.
A woman who worked at Bennett Valley Jewelers was treated for a gunshot wound at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital and released, while a man suspected of trying to rob the store suffered “life-threatening” injuries after he was shot by a man who worked at the store, Santa Rosa police said.
A second suspect left his wounded accomplice behind and fled the Yulupa Avenue strip mall in a Ford Mustang convertible. The car, which police said had been reported stolen in Livermore, was found about a quarter-mile away from the site of the attempted robbery.
The incident, which happened just after 1:30 p.m., triggered a wide-ranging search in Bennett Valley that led police through quiet residential neighborhoods and into Annadel State and Spring Lake parks.
Officers with dogs combed the streets as police motorcycles and patrol cars drove onto dirt access roads to Annadel, where a person spotted a running man matching the suspect’s description. Officers and park rangers hiked up trails, and at least two helicopters aided the search from above.
The suspect was described as a large black man with dreadlocks in his early 20s, wearing a white-and-blue plaid shirt, blue jeans and white tennis shoes, Sgt. Brad Conners said. The man may have been wounded during the encounter and should be considered “armed and dangerous,” Conners said.
The search was called off by police about 5:30 p.m. with the suspect still at large.
Police, including an off-duty officer who happened to be at the mall, apprehended the wounded man, Santa Rosa Police Sgt. David Linscomb said.
“I drove into the parking lot and saw this guy get tackled by two big guys,” Regina Kech of Sebastopol said. “The guy on the ground looked like he’d been shot. He was bleeding and screaming.”
On Thursday at about 1:30 p.m., witnesses said, they saw two men get out of a red sports car in front of a nail salon in the Yulupa Avenue strip mall. One was wearing a mask and carrying a gun, said Vickie Lee, who manages Modern Nails. The two men walked into the jewelry store, she said. Shortly after, gunshots were heard.
There were three employees in the store when the suspects entered and no customers, according to Linscomb.
“Two suspects walked into the store. At least one of them had a gun,” he said.
There was an exchange of gunfire inside the store between the suspects and “someone associated with the jewelry store,” Linscomb said.
“The confrontation ensued — they fired at each other,” he said. “One man ran out to the Mustang and drove off,” leaving the other suspect behind, Linscomb said.
“It was scary. I fell over running to the back, I was so nervous,“ said Lenna Saltzman of Santa Rosa, who was at Modern Nails, three stores down from the jewelers. Employees locked the doors and ushered the customers to the back. “My first thought was that any moment someone would barge in and start shooting.”