2 Santa Cruz, Calif., police officers shot dead
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. – Two Santa Cruz police officers were shot and killed Tuesday while investigating a sexual assault, and a suspect was also fatally shot, authorities said.
The officers were shot around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, and Santa Cruz County Sheriff Phil Wowak confirmed Tuesday evening that they died.
The shooting in the community about 60 miles south of San Francisco took place as police were investigating a report of a sexual assault, Wowak said. A suspect fired, hitting the two officers.
A suspect was shot while police were in pursuit of the shooter, the sheriff said. Authorities said that person also died.
The names and ages of the officers and the suspect have not been released.
Residents on the streets adjoining where the two shootings occurred received an automatic police call at about 3:30 p.m. warning them to stay locked inside.
About half an hour later, more than a dozen semi-automatic shots echoed down the streets in a brief shootout that killed the suspect.
Three hours later, police were going door to door in the neighborhood searching homes, garages, even closets, although the sheriff said authorities didn’t know if another suspect remained at large.
Police, sheriff’s deputies and FBI agents filled intersections, some with guns drawn, in what is ordinarily a quiet, residential neighborhood.
A store clerk a few buildings away from the shooting said the barrage of gunfire was “terrifying.”
“We ducked. We have big desks so under the desks we went,” said the clerk, who spoke on condition of anonymity and asked that her store not be identified because a suspect might still be at large and she feared for her safety.
She said she was still locked in her store a few hours after the shooting and was still scared.
Two schools were locked down during the shooting. About two hours later, the students were evacuated by bus to the County Government Center about half a mile away.
As darkness fell, helicopters and light aircraft patrolled above the neighborhood, which is about one mile from downtown Santa Cruz and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
The university of California, Santa Cruz campus is in hills about five miles away from the shooting scenes.
Santa Cruz has faced a recent spate of violence, and a rally had been scheduled for Tuesday for community leaders to speak out against shootings. But after Tuesday’s gunfire, both a regularly scheduled City Council meeting and the downtown rally were canceled after teary-eyed city leaders learned of the deaths.
The surprising attacks include the killing of Pauly Silva, a 32-year-old martial arts instructor who was shot outside a popular bar and restaurant in downtown Santa Cruz on Feb. 9.
Two days later, a UC Santa Cruz student waiting at a bus stop was shot in the head during a robbery. She is recovering from her injuries.
Then on Feb. 17, a 21-year-old woman was raped and beaten on the UC Santa Cruz campus. Four days later, a Santa Cruz couple fought off two men who came in their home before dawn and threatened them with a sword.