Sheriff: Looters Arrested for Targeting Homes of California Wildfire Evacuees

Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office

Five suspected looters were arrested Friday for targeting homes in Santa Cruz County, California, whose owners had evacuated due to the wildfires.

“Jose Gandarilla, Susana Luna, Crystal Araujo, Sara Loretz and Crystle Parstch-Lucchesi were all arrested on charges including looting, grand theft, conspiracy to commit crime and burglary,” according to KRON 4.

Friday night, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office posted mugshots of the suspects:

“We will never stop protecting this County,” the sheriff’s office said in a Facebook post, adding that the five suspects victimized community members who were already hurting:

This morning we received reports of looters in the Fall Creek Drive area. Deputies attempted to stop two cars in the area – one of the cars stopped, but the other attempted to flee and ended up in a ditch.

In no way are we leaving these areas unsecured, we are doing our best and will continue to do our best and if you come to victimize our community you will see that.

A shelter in Santa Cruz reached capacity on Saturday as fires continued to rage, killing at least five residents and burning down hundreds of homes, according to UPI.

The report stated:

The CZU August Lightning Complex fires in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties is the third-largest group of fires among hundreds of wildfires statewide, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. It has injured two people and burned through 63,000 acres with 5% containment. It has destroyed nearly 100 structures and forced approximately 77,000 people to evacuate.

Evacuee Michael Martyn, who was staying at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, said it was nice to have somewhere to go but the unknown was what really hurt.

“It’s going to be bad … when you really get down to the nitty gritty and find out the results of this fire, it’s going to be devastating, devastating,” he commented.

Reinforcements from multiple states arrived in California on Friday as more than 12,000 firefighters along with helicopters and air tankers battled the flames, according to the Associated Press.

“We have more people but it’s not enough,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). “We have more air support but it’s still not enough and that’s why we need support from our federal partners.”


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