Burglary suspect gets away despite massive manhunt
A man involved in a smash-and-grab robbery at Empire Mine State Historic Park eluded searchers from six law enforcement agencies, including aerial surveillance by helicopter and K-9 units, during a manhunt Tuesday afternoon.
“It was frustrating,” said supervising state parks Ranger Don Schmidt. “I think we were right on top of him and didn’t know it.”
The suspect, who was described as a bald man in his early 20s with tattoos on his chest, stole money from the donation box at the park’s visitor’s center shortly before 3 p.m., Schmidt said.
The man had been in the center, walking around, and as he was leaving, he picked up the Plexiglas donation box and smashed it, grabbing the money inside.
“We have no idea how much he took,” Schmidt said.
A visitor’s center employee followed him outside to see in which direction he left, then radioed for help.
“Myself and another ranger were close by,” Schmidt said.
They began searching and detained a man who proved not to be the suspect.
“It appeared (the burglar) had been hiding above the Magenta Drain,” Schmidt said. “A construction worker saw him run through the construction site into a cluster of houses.”
The suspect apparently made it to Colfax Avenue and Ophir Street and was spotted near Memorial Park by a Grass Valley Police officer.
“He fled, and the chase was on,” said Grass Valley Police Capt. Rex Marks.
The search eventually expanded to include a California Highway Patrol helicopter and a K-9 unit from Placer County, as well as Nevada County Sheriff’s deputies and Nevada City Police officers.
“We did a track through the creek bed up to Gold Hill Drive,” Marks said.
But as of 8 p.m., the suspect remained at large.
Some conflicting accounts that the man was armed caused concern for neighbors in the area.
According to Schmidt, the suspect never displayed a weapon during the robbery. But a backpack containing a small BB-type pistol that resembled a .22 was found behind a dump truck and was believed to belong to the suspect.
Evidence suggests that the suspect in the smash-and-grab robbery Tuesday is responsible for the break-in at the Food Bank of Nevada County over the weekend and the theft of the organization’s truck Monday night (see Burglars vandalize Grass Valley Food Bank building). The truck was located on a private driveway between Race Street and Empire Mine while rangers were searching the area, and it is believed the robber was driving it.
“We had an attempted break-in (Monday),” Schmidt said. “The person tried to take a pry bar to the front door. My guess is, it’s the same guy.”
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