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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.

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.

Several residents called 911 to report the gunfire and numerous officers responded.

A partial description of the truck was issued to local law enforcement and at about 1:40 a.m. a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy spotted a possible match pulling into Kaiser off Bicentennial Avenue.

Using his loudspeaker, the deputy ordered the occupants to exit the Nissan Frontier. They refused and more deputies arrived. With guns drawn, deputies repeatedly ordered the men out and attempted to negotiate, but the men stayed inside the pickup, Cregan said.

Deputies eventually deployed tear gas through the back window and two men got out.

Still inside the car, on the back seat, was Reyes-Martinez, who had been shot multiple times. He was pulled out of the truck, placed on the ground and handcuffed. Paramedics then determined he was dead.

His body remained under a tarp next to the truck as investigators worked on the case. Sonoma County coroner’s investigators removed the body at about 9 a.m.

A large section of parking was roped off to protect the scene at the hospital.

Across town on Acacia Lane, police tape blocked off a section of the 600 block where the shooting occurred. Cregan said a detached garage contained a large indoor marijuana garden and a neighboring home had been completely turned into an indoor garden with plants growing in each room.

Both properties were rentals, which police said is part of another trend they are seeing more of — homes being used for indoor marijuana grow operations without the knowledge of landlords.

“Unfortunately, it’s the reality we face in Santa Rosa. The owners are not aware. They’re renting houses (to people who) grow marijuana in every single room of the house,” Cregan said.

In a home-invasion robbery on Windsor Court in Santa Rosa several months back, the rental home had been converted to an indoor marijuana farm. Cregan said the property owner learned the house was being used in such a way by reading a report of the robbery in the newspaper.

“I spoke to the owner of that house. They had no idea there was marijuana there. They were shocked,” he said.

Acacia Lane, a quiet area off Highway 12 east of Mission Boulevard, is not frequented by police, Cregan said. “This is exactly the area of town you’ll see some of the marijuana grows,” he said. “They’re (growers) targeting these areas of town. They blend in, it’s low risk.”

Acacia Lane neighbor Stacy Mathieu, who slept through the gun battle, on Monday said she didn’t know about the marijuana gardens a few doors down from where she’s raising two young children. When she awoke to find her neighborhood taken over by police and news media, the reality was hard to ignore.

“It’s pretty scary. People act like it’s not a big deal,” she said referring to marijuana. “But it kind of is, if things like this happen.”

Lia Taylor, who lives in a senior-housing development across the street, also was unaware of the goings-on across the street. She had been up late at night watching TV when she heard a loud noise.

“(I) thought it was just the wind,” she said.

She was awakened hours later by a police detective looking for more information on the shooting.

“I’m so naive. I never really expected (it),” she said.

Staff Writer Eloísa Ruano González contributed to the report. You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 521-5412 or randi.rossmann@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter at @rossmannreport.

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