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Suspect in police shooting was convicted felon with outstanding warrants

By Rachel Rosenbaum/rrosenbaum@appealdemocrat.com Marysville Appeal-Democrat

A Gilroy man with a criminal past was killed Tuesday in a firefight that wounded two deputies, the Yuba County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday.

Mark Anthony Sanchez, 33, is believed to have been living and working as a caretaker at a marijuana garden next to the residence where the shooting occurred.

Sanchez had fled from deputies into a neighboring residence in the 9000 block of Marysville Road, Oregon House.

Sanchez served time in state prison for felonies including carjacking, assault with a deadly weapon, burglary and possession of stolen property. It was also discovered that Sanchez had two active warrants out of Gilroy for robbery and disturbing the peace at the time of his death, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

An autopsy is scheduled for this morning.

The two deputies who were shot were listed in fair condition.

“Of all of them intimately involved in a circumstance that no law enforcement officer wishes to be confronted with, they displayed the most extraordinary acts of bravery and courage,” Sheriff Steve Durfor said Wednesday. “I could not possibly be more proud and honored to work alongside them. Their actions in this situation, in my opinion, went well above and beyond the call of duty and clearly exemplified the very essence of what we stand for in our law enforcement profession.”

Investigation

Investigations into the shooting will continue.

The Yuba-Sutter Officer Involved Shooting team, formed in November 2015, will head the investigation into the actions of Sanchez and into whether the deputies’ firing of weapons was lawful, according to Yuba County District Attorney Pat McGrath.

Since its inception, the team has investigated five officer-involved shootings; three of those were fatal; and three involved suspects shooting at police.

The team includes representatives from the district attorneys offices of both Yuba and Sutter counties, the Sutter County and Yuba County sheriff’s offices, and the Yuba City Police Department.

Though the Yuba County Sheriff’s Office will not be involved in the investigation, it will continue the criminal probe. They also will conduct a professional standards investigation to determine if the department’s policies were followed, McGrath said.

A fourth investigation may occur, McGrath said, which will be one of liability and risk management, conducted by the county.

In a previous interview with the Appeal-Democrat, Sutter County District Attorney Amanda Hopper has said the aim of the OIS team is to establish transparency and ethics.

“Especially given (Tuesday’s) shooting … emotions are heightened,” Hopper said Wednesday. “We don’t want anyone to have to do any sort of investigation that might be something that they’re emotionally tied to.”

The investigation itself, she said, will proceed like any other investigation.

Rastafarian Church

Tuesday’s initial distress call was confirmed by the Yuba County Sheriff’s Office to have come from 9019 Marysville Road, which records show has a history of compliance issues with the cultivation of marijuana.

The property – though not officially confirmed – has been linked to the ONA Sugarleaf Rastafarian Church, based in Sacramento; the sheriff’s office said the initial caller claimed that the suspect was a member of a Rastafarian church in the area.  Facebook posts from the church indicate that the property in Oregon House is in fact related.

The reverend, CEO and founder, Heidi Lepp, also has a history with Yuba County Code Enforcement; the church filed a $1 billion lawsuit in June against Yuba County over the church’s pot grows.

Two Facebook requests for comment and a voicemail to Lepp were unreturned.  An email request for comment to her attorney, Joseph Tully, also went unreturned.

Records indicate that she is not the owner of the parcel.

According to the Yuba County Assessor’s Office, the parcel at 9019 Marysville Road is listed as belonging to Jevaughn and Shana Bennet – a brother and sister with a Bronx, N.Y,. address – since Feb. 24, 2016. Facebook requests to both Bennets went unreturned.

The Assessor’s Office confirmed the property, which is only registered as housing a mobile home,  is not currently receiving any property tax exemptions as being recognized as a church. The office also confirmed that property tax notices are mailed to the Bronx address.


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