UPDATE: On Saturday morning, officials with the Sheriff's office said the suspect might have fled San Geronimo Valley in a stolen car over night.
A massive manhunt for a possibly armed and dangerous car theft suspect in the Woodacre area, a search that involved dozens of law enforcement officers and spanned nearly nine hours, was called off late Friday afternoon, according to the Marin County Sheriff’s Office.
Sheriff’s Lt. Keith Boyd said the search for the unidentified suspect was suspended at around 5 p.m., with no plans to resume. Boyd said the decision was made to end the search due to the amount of time that had passed since the last sighting of the suspect, the lengthy nature of the search and the rugged terrain of the area. The suspect was last spotted by law enforcement officers was “a couple of hours ago,” Boyd said.
“We have to look at the overall needs of the community,” Boyd said. “Having had no contact with the suspect in a while, it’s possible that he was able to get outside of our perimeter.”
The search in the latter part of the day centered on the area southeast of Woodacre, near the White Hill Open Space Preserve, Boyd said. The search included dozens of law enforcement officers from the Sheriff’s offices of both Sonoma and Marin, as well as Fairfax, Central Marin Police, Novato Police, Windsor Police, Ross Police and California Highway Patrol. A number of search dogs were involved in the manhunt as well.
Boyd confirmed that officers had made a number of sightings of the suspect through the course of the day.
“Due to the nature of the terrain, closing the distance between a sighting and actual apprehension proved difficult,” Boyd said.
Law enforcement officers from across the North Bay descended on of Woodacre early Friday morning, establishing a one-square-mile perimeter around the area where the suspect reportedly abandoned the dark-colored 2007 black Acadia GMC he allegdly stole in Windsor earlier in the day. Schools in Lagunitas and Nicasio were locked down, officials said, and a Montessori school in the Woodacre area closed for the day and notified parents to not bring children to the school.
The suspect is described as a white male in his 20s or 30s who is 5-8 and approximately 160 pounds with his hair pulled back. He was last seen wearing a burgundy shirt and blue-gray sweatpants, Boyd said.
The incident began at around 6 a.m. Friday when Sonoma County Sheriff's deputies contacted the suspect after receiving a report of a theft of a dark-colored 2007 black Acadia GMC out of Windsor. They tracked the car via its "Onstar" GPS device to near Petaluma. After making contact with the suspect, a Taser gun was used unsuccessfully and the suspect fled, but not before making multiple threats to deputies, Boyd said.
Sonoma Sheriff's officials tracked the suspect vehicle via Onstar to West Marin. advising Marin Sheriff's deputies at around 6:30 a.m. that the suspect at large may be armed and dangerous, Boyd said.
Sonoma County sheriff's Lt. Tim Duke said the man is also suspected of committing a burglary and robbery in Calistoga and Santa Cruz.
"That put everyone on a more heightened alert," Duke said. The suspect then was described as possibly armed and dangerous when the Marin Sheriff's deputies were advised about the incident at 6:30 a.m.
Sheriff's deputies in West Marin tracked the SUV as it made its way down Point Reyes-Petaluma Rd. into Point Reyes, and a Sheriff's deputy spotted the vehicle near the Nicasio Reservoir, Boyd said. A short puruit ensued but the deputy eventually lost sight of the vehicle, he said.
The man drove through Point Reyes Station, Olema and Bolinas before heading back east on Fairfax-Bolinas Road into Fairfax.
A chase ensued through the wet and foggy conditions along Sir Francis Drake Blvd., and the suspect abandoned the vehicle in Woodacre at around 7:50 a.m., fleeing into the hilly and forested area that contains many fire trails.
Dozens of law enforcement officers from the Sheriff’s offices of both Sonoma and Marin, as well as Fairfax, Central Marin Police, Novato Police, Windsor Police, Ross Police and California Highway Patrol have been searching the area around Woodacre for the suspect. A fixed-wing plane from the CHP searched the area until weather conditions worsened and it was grounded, California Highway Patrol Officer Andrew Barclay said. It has been been re-deployed to the area.
Authorities set up a command post Friday morning at Central Avenue and Park Street in Woodacre, Barclay said.
Abel Medrano, who works at the Woodacre Country Market and Deli at 175 San Geronimo Valley Road, said he hadn’t seen the police activity because he has been busy inside the market working but that several customers have told him about it. Patrons told him that there are lots of police with guns drawn, and that there was a small plane flying in the area Friday morning, Medrano said.
Barclay said the CHP was told the man might have committed another crime before the vehicle was stolen.
Boyd defended the massive, day-long search for the unidentified suspect. He said that while little has been confirmed about the suspect's possible ties to previous crimes, the allegations from today’s events warranted the response regardless.
“We are dealing with an individual who in the process of stealing a car had an altercation with law enforcement where he threatened to kill a law officer and claimed to have a firearm,” Boyd said. “We have to take action based on the statement that he made.”
Anyone with information on the suspect's whereabouts is asked to call the Marin County Sheriff's Office at 415-499-7233 or Bay Area Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.