A suspected shoplifter, later found to have what appeared to be a gun in his backpack, refused to surrender when confronted by police at the Kmart store in north Santa Rosa on Sunday morning, setting off a skirmish and a large-scale law enforcement response that left him and several officers injured.
It took six Santa Rosa police and Sonoma County sheriff’s deputies to subdue the man, who reportedly grabbed for one officer’s sidearm during the fight, police Lt. Mike Tosti said.
The unidentified suspect eventually was taken away in an ambulance, limp and apparently unconscious on the gurney. It wasn’t clear how he had been subdued or what his injuries were.
The fracas left at least one officer with obvious scrapes and gashes on his face, as well. Smears of blood and bloodied wipes or bandages were evident on the floor in an area of the Cleveland Avenue store that was cordoned off by yellow police tape afterward.
Details of the incident at the center of the store were not immediately available. But several shoppers apparently witnessed the incident, including a woman who said she was a retired police officer and who described the suspect as “definitely out of control.”
A store employee who identified himself as an assistant store manager and gave his name only as Eric said the suspected shoplifter was first spotted by store security, who then called police.
Tosti said two officers arrived within about five minutes of the 10:40 a.m. call and confronted the suspect, who set off a rapidly escalating struggle.
The officers put out a Code 20 call for all available backup, resulting in the arrival of more than a dozen law enforcement vehicles at the busy store.
At some point, it was determined that the subject was armed, though the skirmish involved a struggle over one of the officer’s sidearms, Tosti said.
Police Sgt. Ron Nelson said the fight was still ongoing when he arrived, involving at least six officers and deputies.
“It was taking multiple people to get him restrained,” Nelson said.
A shopping cart apparently used by the man and being kept as evidence contained numerous items of clothing and other merchandise, including a jar of applesauce. Inside a backpack in the cart was a handgun and an ammunition clip the suspect was believed to have brought into the store, Tosti said.
Tosti said detectives had not arrived yet to determine if it was an actual firearm.