Calif. robbery spurs chase, long campus lockdown
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A state university where some 10,000 students were locked down for hours reopened Thursday as authorities tried to track two robbers who managed to escape a room-by-room manhunt.
“We’re back to business as usual,” said campus police Capt. John Brocke at California State University, Fullerton.
A week before final exams, the sprawling Orange County campus was swarmed by gun-toting officers after a car chase on Wednesday ended with two suspects in a robbery and shooting in neighboring Riverside County running onto the campus.
Those two suspects were still being sought Thursday, and three others remained in custody — including 24-year-old Traevon Cortez Vidaud of Compton, who is accused of carjacking a vehicle and leading officers on a chase before winding up at a recreation center where Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck was giving away toys to children.
Also in custody were Los Angeles residents Damine Lavonte Banks, 30, and Jerome Renard Allen, 23. It was unclear if any of the suspects have legal representation yet.
Fullerton was one stop on the wild, three-county pursuit that began after five people tried to rob a pawn and jewelry shop in Moreno Valley. An employee was shot in the holdup just after 3 p.m. Wednesday.
Riverside County authorities withheld the victim’s name for his safety. He was listed in critical but stable condition Thursday afternoon.
The robbers fled in a gray Lexus and were stopped in Fullerton when it rear-ended another car near the school. Two suspects were held, but three others ran off.
“They ran right at me. I decided to get out of their way. I did not know if they were armed or not,” said student Shaun Kintaudi, who was on his way to take a test. “I decided it was best to run away from them and let the cops do their job.”
During a seven-hour lockdown, students stayed connected to family, friends and media outlets via text messages, phone calls and Twitter from classrooms and dorm rooms, some with doors barricaded.
“We’ve made a makeshift bathroom out of trash cans, and whatever happens here stays here. That’s the rule,” Robert Pachorek, a student holed up in a classroom in Langsdorf Hall, told KABC-TV in a call from his cellphone.
Police believe at least one of the suspects fled into Mihaylo Hall, where some occupants were evacuated. SWAT officers cleared the hall room by room.
“We saw all these cops coming through with — I think they were like AKs or something. They were pretty big guns,” student Nate Chu told KABC. “And they eventually told us we had to leave the campus.”
Students were alerted about the situation via text message at about 4 p.m. and told to stay where they were with doors locked. They were notified by cellphone, email and public address system as each building was cleared.
The lockdown ended about 11 p.m., Brocke said. No students were hurt but some were treated for anxiety and one, a diabetic, needed medication, he added.
One person being chased carjacked a silver sedan, possibly from a Fullerton student, and drove wildly through rush-hour traffic on state Route 91 until crashing the car nearly 30 miles away in the Watts area of Los Angeles County, authorities said.
The man then sprinted across a lawn and hopped a fence near a housing project. He surrendered to dozens of officers on a baseball diamond at a recreation center where Beck was giving away toys to hundreds of young children.
“He picked the wrong rec center to run into today,” Los Angeles police Cmdr. Andy Smith said.
Associated Press writer Chris Weber in Los Angeles contributed to this report.