Armed robbers kicked in the front door of an east Santa Rosa home where a family of four slept early Monday, sparking a gunfight that left one suspect dead and another critically injured in the region’s latest home-invasion robbery over marijuana, according to police.
The gun battle unfolded at the front steps of the Acacia Lane home, where Manuel Garcia, 25, fired from a bedroom window at the intruders, who were just feet away at the busted door on the threshold of the home, according to Santa Rosa police.
The would-be robbers were both wounded and fled to a waiting truck.
The men drove off but turned up less than an hour later in the parking lot of Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, where they were spotted by a sheriff’s deputy. This led to a brief standoff before one man was arrested, a second man was rushed to another hospital and a third was determined dead at the scene.
Police identified Pablo Reyes-Martinez, 22, of Santa Rosa as the dead man. An autopsy is pending.
Fidencio Reyes Bocanegra underwent surgery at Santa Rosa’s Memorial Hospital for life-threatening injuries, stemming from a single gunshot wound, police said. His condition and hometown were not available Monday night.
Miguel Junior Flores, 36, of Cloverdale was the driver, Sgt. David Linscomb said. Flores was booked into jail and faces several charges, including murder, conspiracy, attempted first-degree robbery and committing a felony with a firearm.
The trio’s target on the normally quiet lane appeared to be a large amount of marijuana growing in the home’s garage and inside an adjacent residence, Sgt. John Cregan said. Detectives searched the two properties Monday afternoon. They did not release any details regarding what was found, but Linscomb did say that Garcia, who was involved in the shooting, and neighbor Rolando Ramirez-Ruiz, 23, were growing and selling the marijuana illegally. Both men were booked into jail.
Ramirez-Ruiz faces several charges, including possession and cultivation of marijuana to sell, possession of narcotics to sell and firearm charges. Garcia faces similar charges, as well as one for felony child endangerment.
Two young children lived in the residence where the midnight shooting occurred.
“One of them was sleeping in the front room and one was sleeping in a back room,” Linscomb said.
No one in the house was injured during the gunfire.
Armed robberies of homes in the night, often by masked intruders carrying guns who tie up and assault their victims, are a too-common trend timed with the outdoor marijuana harvest, law enforcement officials said. Similar crimes have occurred in Geyserville, Calpella and Clearlake in recent weeks.
“We have seen an increase in marijuana-motivated home-invasion robberies that are increasingly armed and violent,” Sonoma County sheriff’s Sgt. Cecile Focha said.
While some of the violent crimes are reported, many aren’t, she said.
“Sometimes we know these weed rips don’t get reported,” Focha said.
Monday’s case occurred at about 12:50 a.m. The family had been sleeping when a thunderous noise brought Garcia to his feet. He called 911, saying armed men were trying to force their way inside his front door.
He grabbed a gun and stood at a bedroom window. “He fires several shots at the armed suspects and they shoot back,” Cregan said.
The gunfire missed the man. “It truly is a miracle he’s alive today. It was a close-range gun battle between the victim and multiple armed suspects,” Cregan said.
HOME INVASIONS ON RISE
Feb. 6: A Geyserville family, including two children, were targeted when armed and masked men burst in through windows during the night. They tied up one person and assaulted two others, apparently looking for marijuana.
Late January: A Calpella man was tied up, blindfolded and assaulted during a 3 a.m. robbery at his home, where money and marijuana was taken.
Early January: A Clearlake man was shot and wounded when masked robbers appeared at his home and began shooting. They took almost 100 pounds of marijuana, packaging materials, several weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition, according to police.
In the same week: Willits police were called to such a robbery, which included masked men, guns, and victims being accosted during a marijuana sale.
From August to late November: Eleven home-invasion style robberies were reported in Sonoma and Mendocino counties.