Armed robbery in Windsor injures Loomis guard; two suspects in custody

Masked men armed with an assault rifle shot an armored car guard outside of a Chase Bank branch in Windsor on Tuesday during a brazen daylight robbery at a busy shopping complex, sparking a massive manhunt that spilled over into Napa County and more gunfire aimed at a police officer in Calistoga, where residents were ordered on lockdown during an hourslong search that spanned the small city.

The stunning outbreak of violence took place shortly before 2 p.m. at the crowded Safeway Lakewood shopping center. A Loomis guard who had exited the bank with bags of money was shot multiple times by an assailant with an assault rifle that initial reports indicated was an AK-47.

About 30 minutes later, after the two men fled in a vehicle, one of the two suspects was taken into custody after he opened fired on a Calistoga police officer on a residential street in the Napa County community.

The officer, who was not hit by gunfire, rammed the man with his patrol car, according to Napa County Sheriff's Capt. Keith Behlmer. The suspect was identified as Serge Gutsu, 24, from Antelope, Calif. The severity of his injuries was not immediately disclosed.

During the encounter, the second robbery suspect bailed out of an Chevy SUV and ran, prompting an intense search across Calistoga that included SWAT teams from Napa and Sonoma counties. Law enforcement teams fanned out in the city with dogs and two armored vehicles while Henry 1, the Sonoma County sheriff's helicopter, and the CHP's helicopter hovered overhead.

The second suspect, Ivan Morales, 23, of Lakeport, was arrested about 7 p.m. after SWAT members found him in a creek bed behind the Rancho de Calistoga mobile home park. The arrest brought relief to Calistoga residents who had been ordered to shelter in place or were prevented from returning to their homes for nearly five hours.

Both men were booked into the Sonoma County Jail, arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, robbery and conspiracy. They were being held without bail.

Authorities recovered two firearms in Calistoga following the confrontation between the police officer and the suspects. They did not provide any additional details about the guns.

Sonoma County sheriff's officials also did not provide an update on the condition of the wounded guard, who was rushed to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. Sources close to the investigation said he was shot 3 to 4 times.

The armed robbery, the latest in a string of armored car heists dating back decades in Sonoma County, occurred about 1:50 p.m. at the Safeway shopping center at Brooks and Lakewood roads in Windsor. Witnesses at the center said the sound of gunfire prompted many people to run for cover or throw themselves to the ground. Well after the incident, some were still in disbelief at what occurred.

“I thought it must be hammering, it's not something you would expect; even though it's a busy shopping center, it's a quiet town,” said Daniel Theriot, 18, of Santa Rosa who was in a UPS store when the shots rang out.

Cop cars streamed into the parking lot just as Tyler Ross, 19, of Windsor was showing up for his shift at BurtoNZ Bakery. At first he thought he was being pulled over. But once he parked, he saw a woman running down the sidewalk outside the bakery, coming from the direction of the Chase Bank.

His co-worker, Shandell Byorum, 47, ran outside and joined a group of people who gathered near the injured guard, who was on the ground being tended to by paramedics. Byorum said the man was moving and appeared conscious.

“It was just chaos, I've never seen so many police, from all sorts of agencies,” Byorum said.

The robbery launched a huge response by Sonoma County sheriff's deputies, police from several local agencies and the FBI. Numerous witnesses to the event were taken to a nearby hall to be interviewed, according to authorities.

Windsor Police Chief Chris Spallino said the Loomis guard had been shot multiple times while leaving the Chase branch carrying at least two bags of money back to the waiting vehicle, where one security guard remained inside.

“He was bringing money out of the bank and the suspects pulled up behind him,” Spallino said.

Two men wearing masks jumped out of a vehicle, with at least one carrying a long gun described by emergency dispatchers as an AK-47. Shell casings for the high-powered weapon reportedly were found at the scene. However, Windsor police and sheriff's officials declined to confirm the make of the gun.

After wounding the guard, the robbers grabbed the money, jumped into a green Suzuki SUV and drove to a spot behind a gym, where they ditched the vehicle for the Chevy SUV. Police broadcasted an alert to law enforcement agencies in the area asking them to be on the lookout for the Chevy. A Calistoga police officer spotted the vehicle parked on Mitzi Drive near the intersection of Petrified Forest Road and Highway 128, which also is known as Foothill Boulevard.

Paty Martinez, 23, who lives on the street, said she was at home with her 18-year-old sister doing laundry in the garage when she heard the sound of two gunshots followed by a loud crash. Rushing to her living room, she looked out the window to see a police car in her neighbor's front yard and an officer pointing a gun at a man who was bleeding from his forehead.

“I was scared,” she said. “This is Calistoga. We don't hear gunshots here.”

The city's downtown was deserted Tuesday evening after most shops closed early for the day in response to the police presence and reports that an armed and dangerous robbery suspect was loose in the city.

Outside of the Chicken Scratch antique and gift shop, Lacey Bueno, 22, was preparing to head home to Santa Rosa after closing the store at 2:30 p.m.

“It's weird,” she said. “It's a tourist town. Nothing ever happens here.”

Just around the corner, on Washington Street, about 10 people gathered outside the Calistoga Community Center, which authorities made available to residents who were not being allowed to head home.

One of them was 48-year-old Lupe Martinez - Paty Martinez's mother.

“Why did they have to come and disturb Calistoga?” the elder Martinez said of the robbery suspects. “And right next to my house!”

The second suspect appeared to have been caught not far from where the confrontation with the Calistoga police officer took place. Authorities said the man was unarmed and that he gave himself up without a struggle. During the search, he was described by police as a 24-year-old Los Angeles resident.

Witnesses to Tuesday's heist in Windsor told deputies the men wore masks and hooded sweatshirts. Windsor resident Gina Sharp, 75, had been getting her nails done at a shop in the strip mall when she said three to four gunshots rang out. She saw a woman drop to the ground outside of the nail shop, prompting other women inside the shop to yell out to ask if she was all right.

“Yes, I'm hiding,” Sharp said the woman called back.

There have been numerous armored car heists in Sonoma County in the past few decades, typically involving armed, masked men, and sometimes gunfire and death.

Almost $1 million was stolen in August 2011 from Garda Armored Car Services in Santa Rosa. A year later, one of those suspects planned a follow-up heist but was arrested after police were alerted. That man was convicted and given a 32-year prison sentence.

In May 2009, an armed man held a Brink's guard at gunpoint during a lunchtime robbery outside of a Bank of America in downtown Sebastopol, making off with an undisclosed amount of money.

In April 2008 a gunman disguised as a gardener dropped a lawn trimmer and pulled out a handgun to rob an armored truck guard parked outside of a Bank of America branch at the Montgomery Village Shopping Center in east Santa Rosa. How much was taken wasn't disclosed but one bag apparently left behind by the robber held about $300,000.

In September 2007, a Loomis armored truck courier was robbed at gunpoint as he delivered a bag of cash to an Exchange Bank branch in west Santa Rosa.

In 1995, an armored truck heist at Sonoma's Bank of America led to a shootout and the deaths of a guard and a robbery suspect. The guard was killed while taking money from the bank to the truck. The suspect was shot and killed by a second security officer

Staff Writer Christi Warren contributed to this story.

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