This is a press release from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office. The information has not been proven in a court of law and any individuals described should be presumed innocent until proven guilty:
On 09-27-2020 at approximately 10:02 AM, a CALFIRE law enforcement prevention officer contacted an adult male on Highway 162 approximately .5 miles from the intersection of Highway 101.
Upon contact the adult male reported being the victim of an armed robbery which had occurred approximately 20 minutes prior to the contact.
The adult male advised there had been 3-4 suspects armed with assault weapon style rifles and being dressed in body armor. The suspects had potentially fled southbound of Highway 101 in a black Chevrolet Tahoe and gray Toyota Tacoma.
This information was broadcast by radio to on-duty personnel with the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, California Highway Patrol and Ukiah Police Department.
A Sheriff’s Office Sergeant was on routine patrol on Highway 20 east of Potter Valley when he saw two vehicles matching the suspect vehicle descriptions.
He attempted a traffic stop on the black Chevrolet Tahoe, which failed to stop and instead accelerated to speeds over 100 MPH. A vehicle pursuit was initiated with the assistance of the California Highway Patrol (CHP).
The Chevrolet Tahoe continued several miles eastbound on Highway 20 before making a U-turn and headed westbound on Highway 20 for a short time before turning onto a rural parcel of property near Mile Post Marker 41, which was on the east side of the highway.
The Chevrolet Tahoe continued along a poor conditioned dirt road which led up into the wooded hillside. Fearing an ambush, the patrol Sergeant discontinued the pursuit and began to establish a search perimeter.
During the Chevrolet Tahoe pursuit, a Deputy responding to assist the Sergeant was able to conduct a traffic stop on the Toyota Tacoma.
The Deputy identified the driver as being Jesus Estevan Vargas Jr. and a subsequent investigation resulted in his arrest in connection with the reported armed robbery.
During the establishment of the search perimeter the Sergeant learned of a possible exit point to the east along Highway 101. The Sergeant took position at this eastern location to intercept the Chevrolet Tahoe.
A short time later a few gunshots were heard and then a person was heard screaming. Sometime thereafter, law enforcement personnel on the search perimeter were contacted by two adult males. Deputies learned the adult males had been kidnapped during the armed robbery and had been bound by zip-ties and their heads covered by some type material.
They reported the Chevrolet Tahoe had become disabled on the dirt road and one of the adult male victims was shot in the back while trying to escape. The adult victims reported the two suspects fled on foot, were armed with assault style rifles and clothed in body armor.
The adult male victim with the gunshot wound to the back of his shoulder was transported by air ambulance to an out of county hospital for medical treatment.
Based upon the circumstances of the situation a request was made for the Mendocino County Multi-Agency SWAT team who later arrived on scene.
The SWAT team utilized the armored Citizen Rescue Vehicle (CRV) and drove to the area of the disabled Chevrolet Tahoe. At the same time, H-14 (CHP Helicopter) began providing aerial assistance to the SWAT team.
As H-14 conducted overflight operations they were able to locate one of the suspects in the wooden terrain uphill from the disabled Chevrolet Tahoe. This suspect disarmed himself and surrendered to the SWAT team by walking downhill to their position.
H-14 continued overflight operations and located the second suspect nearby to where the first suspect was first observed. H-14 was able to identify the second suspect as being armed with a handgun and rifle.
Sometime thereafter, several gunshots were heard which were attributed to the second suspect and H-14 continued to observe his location.
During this time H-14 radioed to the SWAT team that the suspect had possibly suffered a self inflicted gunshot wound but was still making body movements which showed he was alive and still a potential danger as he was still armed.
As H-14 began to exhaust their fuel, a mutual aid request was sent to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office for their helicopter Henry-1, which subsequently arrived on scene. When H-14 left for refueling, Henry-1 assumed overflight operations and assisted SWAT team members in safely approaching the second suspect.
At this time, H-14 was able to return to the scene to provide further assistance as Henry-1 was exhausting their fuel.
The SWAT team was able to take the second suspect into custody and noticed he needed immediate medical treatment due to a self inflicted gunshot wound to his head.
A SWAT team medic began life saving treatment and the second suspect was immediately transported by Sheriff’s Office vehicle to the staging area near Highway 101 where an ambulance and H-14 was waiting. The second suspect was prepped for flight and H-14 transported him to an out of county hospital for medical treatment.
Sheriff’s Detectives are conducting ongoing investigations at this time into the reported robbery and kidnapping.
At this time it appears the robbery and kidnapping was connected to a marijuana sale/purchase transaction between the involved individuals.
One law enforcement member experienced a heat related emergency at the conclusion of the several hour event and had to be transported to Adventist Health- Ukiah Valley by ambulance where he was treated/released.
There were no other law enforcement injuries and no shots were fired by law enforcement personnel during the incident/operation.
The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank the following agencies for their assistance during this incident/operation:
CALFIRE (Prevention Officer)
California Highway Patrol (Officers and H-14)
Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office (Deputies and Henry-1)
Ukiah Police Department
Potter Valley Fire Department