Sonoma County

North Bay Neighborhood Shaken By Brazen Shooting, Robbery

Nerves are rattled in the North Bay after a brazen shooting and robbery Tuesday.

As officials on Wednesday shared new information about the crime, so did witnesses about the chaos that ensued and heroes who jumped in to help.

Xochitl Garcia said she was still shaken up after shots went off the previous day outside the Verizon store where she works. She peeked outside to see an armored car guard from the Chase bank next door laying on the sidewalk with a gunshot wound. 

"I hear a big, loud scream and it was the security guard and he was like, 'Stop!' and right after that I heard three shots and freaked out," Garcia said.

The robbery was first reported around 1:50 p.m. in the area of the Lakewood Shopping Center at 9018 Brooks Road South, according to Sonoma County sheriff's spokeswoman Sgt. Cecile Focha.

Investigators say the two men responsible — 24-year-old Serge Gutsu of Antelope and 23-year-old Ivan Morales of Lakeport — later opened fire on Calistoga police officer Luis Paniagua. The rookie officer rammed his car into their SUV and helped take Gutsu into custody. The second suspect was arrested a few hours later, police said.

Garcia recalled seeing wounds on the security guard's arm and leg. "There was a lot of blood," she said.

A woman, Venita Barbita, said her son, a Vietnam War veteran, came to the guard's aid and used towels to stop his bleeding. 

"He pressed down on the guy's leg because it was spurting blood," she said. "He says there was blood all over. He's a hero."

Garcia, who said she is praying for the guard, said she is grateful nobody else was hurt. 

"After my co-worker came out here and we realized we got a shot right here, that's when I realized that it could have been me," Garcia said. "It could have been any one of us."

Two suspects tied to an armed robbery and shooting of a guard are in custody following an intense manhunt that prompted North Bay residents to shelter in place, authorities said late Tuesday. Cheryl Hurd reports.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office alerted surrounding law enforcement agencies to the suspects' description and soon deputies in Calistoga spotted the suspects, Focha said.

Napa County Sheriff's Office officials said the Calistoga unit pulled up behind the parked suspect vehicle. One suspect got out of the car and began firing at the sheriff cruiser, officials said.

The Napa County Sheriff's Office said that Paniagua, the deputy driving the vehicle, used the cruiser to knock the suspect down. Paniagua suffered superficial injuries from his airbag being deployed.

"The officer that actually took the first suspect into custody confirmed the ID of the second suspect — the gentleman that ran from us earlier,” Capt. Keith Behlmer of the Napa County Sheriff’s Office said.

The second suspect fled the scene on foot, prompting a manhunt in Calistoga, which led to authorities urging residents to shelter in place. After more than four hours, and with the assistance of a K-9 unit and helicopters, the suspect was located in a creek bed near the Napa River and taken into custody, Behlmer said.

The first suspect was taken to a hospital for his injuries. Officials did not provide details about the victim's condition.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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