It was a brazen act in an affluent suburb with little crime and not a single homicide in 4 1/2 years.
A gunman carjacked a woman outside a posh eatery in El Dorado Hills and shot her dead as she ran away. He then sped away. The stolen car crashed in a nearby neighborhood and its driver emerged in a daze, asking responding residents, “Am I in the clear?”
A traumatic night and morning after in El Dorado Hills began when two women were accosted after stepping out of the 36 Handles Irish Pub & Eatery at the Montaño de El Dorado shopping plaza, across White Rock Road from the El Dorado Hills Town Center.
It ended when the carjacking suspect, identified as Anderson Swift, 41, of Oakland, was arrested a few miles from the scene after the slaying victim’s stolen car crashed amid bedroom communities and oak-studded hills near El Dorado Hills’ Silva Valley Parkway.
Swift was booked into the El Dorado County jail on charges of murder, being a felon in possession of a firearm, carjacking and theft of a motor vehicle, according to the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office.
The victim and a female companion had left the restaurant/tavern just before its midnight closing time when they were confronted in the parking lot by an armed man who demanded cash and car keys, authorities said.
The women ran, but one woman was shot to death in front of the pub. The other woman escaped, authorities said. The victims’ names were not released.
“The ladies had turned and were headed back toward the pub, away from him, when the suspect shot one of women dead,” El Dorado sheriff’s Lt. Tom Murdoch said.
The robber then drove away, traveling northbound on Silva Valley Parkway. He lost control of the woman’s car at Silva Valley Parkway, just north of Darwin Way, about 4 miles away from the pub.
The vehicle crashed through a fence and landed, flipped over, with the wreckage straddling backyards of two neighboring residences. Its driver fled on foot. He was later captured by deputies and the California Highway Patrol a short distance away from the rollover crash. Skid marks and broken glass from the crash were visible Wednesday along the side of Silva Valley Parkway.
“He fled on foot and he maybe made it a couple of doors down before we picked him up,” said Murdoch.
Wyatt Maeva, 16, who lives across Darwin Way from where the crash occurred, said that he was falling asleep when he heard the sound of the crash.
He went outside and heard his neighbor yelling that he feared the crashed, smoking car was going to explode. Maeva also heard his neighbor scream for somebody to call 911.
Maeva’s mother called 911, and police showed up in about 5 minutes. During that time, he saw the driver run down the street with the neighbor, who was in pursuit on foot.
The suspect reportedly seemed dazed. Later, the neighbor told Maeva that the suspect had said, “Am I in Oakland? Am I in the clear?”
The neighbor coaxed him into sitting on the curb at Darwin Way and Silva Valley Parkway. He remained there until police arrived and took him into custody. The man was treated at the scene for non-life-threatening injuries.
The stolen car was left smoldering in the side-by-side backyards of Marge Williams and Dustin and Kirsten Hart, who moved in last year.
“I didn’t get any sleep afterward,” said Kirsten Hart, who moved to the neighborhood with her husband last year. “It was scary.”
Williams, a 20-year resident who was watching television when she heard the sound of the car tearing through her fence, said she thought it was just another careless driver. She said at least four cars have careened off the road and into the backyards of several homes on the Deakin Place over the past couple of years.
“I couldn’t believe it when I heard what he did,” Williams said. “It’s too bad he didn’t break his neck.”
A weapon believed to have been used in the woman’s killing was found in the crashed vehicle.
“We are lucky he did not have the gun on him,” as he was running past people’s homes, Murdoch said.
A roughly 30-yard-by-70-yard space in front of 36 Handles was cordoned off Wednesday morning with police tape, and parts of the parking lot asphalt had been washed down. The establishment was closed for the day but was expected to reopen Thursday.
Vinal Perkins, developer of Montaño de El Dorado and a co-owner of the 36 Handles restaurant, said the gunman never entered the establishment before accosting the women outside. The pub features an ornate bar inside and a restaurant serving plates from pan-seared salmon to New York strip steak.
“It was a random act of violence from someone we believe to be from outside El Dorado Hills,” Perkins said. “It was completely unrelated to the shopping center. He trespassed on this property as we were closing, and these two young ladies were in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Perkins said the suspect allegedly broke into a silver Hyundai Elantra about 20 feet from the restaurant before the shooting incident. The car remained in the parking lot Wednesday morning with a broken driver’s side window.
“We don’t tend to get violence in this community,” Perkins said. “It is a very, very close-knit community. And when something like this occurs, we’re devastated. Our hearts go out to the family of the victim.”
Don Dean, a local construction project manager, said he had just dropped off his kids at school and heard that a woman had been killed in the 36 Handles parking lot.
“We moved here from the Bay Area to get away from this stuff,” Dean said. “We all thought we were in a (safe) bubble, an enclave. But evidently we’re not.”
Call The Bee’s Peter Hecht, (916) 326-5539. Bee staff writer Bill Lindelof contributed to this report.