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House burns in SWAT gunbattle related to jewelry robbery

May 2, 1997

NATIONAL CITY, Calif.(AP) _ A gunbattle erupted today between SWAT members and alleged jewelry robbers as police tried to serve warrants at a home. Officers lobbed in tear gas, the house caught fire and a body was later found.

A man and woman who emerged from the burning house told officers their son and possibly a friend were inside.

``I’ve got to believe if there’s anyone inside, they’re not alive,″ said Dave Cohen, a spokesman for the San Diego Police Department. ``It burned real hot and heavy.″

Later, police discovered the body in the garage and said there may be another person inside. No more information was immediately available on the fate of those at the house or how they were related to the crime. No other homes on the residential street were damaged.

Officers who arrived at the house in suburban San Diego were met by gunfire at about 8:30 a.m.

Neighbor Sam Antonio, 27, said he was in bed when he heard gunshots. He hit the floor and crawled to get his father in the next room.

``I saw officers with handguns drawn returning fire,″ Antonio said.

Warrants were also served today at two other homes in the area, but the residents were arrested without incident, authorities said.

The Saks Fifth Avenue department store at San Diego’s Fashion Valley mall was robbed last week by black-clad men armed with semiautomatic weapons. They escaped in two cars with an undisclosed amount of jewelry.

National City is about 5 miles south of downtown San Diego.

Update hourly