Crime - Sacto 911

Man killed in Yuba County shootout was marijuana garden caretaker, sheriff’s office says

The man killed in a shootout between two Yuba County sheriff’s deputies at a rural Rastafarian church Tuesday was identified as 33-year-old Mark Anthony Sanchez, the Sheriff’s Department said Wednesday.

Sanchez was believed to be living and working as a caretaker at the marijuana garden in exchange for room and board and nominal wages, the Sheriff’s Department said in a press release.

Authorities said he was originally a Gilroy resident and had served prison time for violent felonies including carjacking, assault with a deadly weapon, as well as burglary and possession of stolen property. He was found dead inside the residence by SWAT officers at 2 p.m.

Sanchez had two active warrants out of Gilroy for robbery and disturbing the peace, the Sheriff’s Department said. Santa Clara Superior Court records show he had four previous criminal cases filed under his name, the most recent in May 2009.

He was at large two years after the 2009 case, in which he was suspected of helping in a carjacking and strong-arm robbery, the Gilroy Dispatch reported in 2011. At the time, police said they did not believe he was living in the area but may have had friends and family who still lived nearby.

It was unclear Wednesday whether Sanchez was arrested in that case.

The two deputies who were shot in the incident – one a 14-year veteran with the department who was struck at least twice in the pelvic area and the other a deputy with a decade of experience struck in the arm – were in fair condition at the Sutter Roseville Medical Center as of Wednesday morning, according to the Yuba County Sheriff’s Department.

The deputies responded to a report of a dispute involving someone destroying marijuana plants at a local growing operation on Tuesday morning, Yuba County Sheriff Steve L. Durfor told reporters Tuesday.

The call came from Heidi Grossman-Lepp, the church’s leader, who reported that a man had become violent with another church member, said Joseph Tully, her attorney.

When deputies arrived at the 900 block of Marysville Road, they chased Sanchez to a nearby home. They were fired upon when they were inside and shot back at Sanchez, Durford said.

A third deputy pulled them out of the house as additional officers arrived to the scene. No one came out after officers fired tear gas inside, and eventually a remote-controlled robot outfitted with a camera determined that Sanchez was dead.

Leslie Carbah, a Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman, said the incident was still under investigation as of Wednesday afternoon and could not give further specifics about the shooting. The Yuba County Sheriff’s Department does not currently outfit its officers with body-worn cameras or in-car cameras, she said.

“We don’t have the details about which officer fired, how many (shots) they fired, or how many hit the suspect,” she said.

Neither deputy was identified by the Sheriff’s Department on Wednesday afternoon. An autopsy of Sanchez’s body to determine the official cause of death is scheduled for Thursday morning.

Nashelly Chavez: 916-321-1188, @nashellytweets