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Sheriff Deputy Zheath Sanchez and I were driving around Imperial Beach Wednesday, talking about graffiti for this week’s Q&A, when the interview came to an abrupt halt.
“Uh-oh,” Sanchez muttered as we passed two men gardening in the front yard of a house. “There’s my guy. Can you pause that for a sec?”
Sanchez was driving his tinted, unmarked car and I was sitting in the front seat with my recorder. We continued a block up the street, turned around and parked in front of the house. Sanchez grabbed a bulletproof vest in the backseat and called for backup. One of the men gardening was wanted.
Sanchez had arrested the man the previous day after he ran from deputies, and though he’d been released on bail, probation agents said he’d violated parole. Other deputies arrived in unmarked cars. Squad cars and a police dog waited around the corners. A helicopter circled nearby.
But Sanchez was still worried. One man already had a history of running from cops, and they were gardening with a shovel and a pickaxe in their hands. The adrenaline kicked in and Sanchez’s breathing sped up (as did mine). Over the radio, the deputies agreed to go in guns drawn.
Then, just before Sanchez signaled the deputies, he asked me to step out of the car. He didn’t want me to be in the hot zone if shots were fired. So, I agreed to wait across the street near a school, where children happened to be playing soccer and other games during recess.
Within seconds, a dozen or so deputies and the police dog swarmed in on the men, who had dropped the gardening tools and started doing push-ups in the front yard. Surrounded, the men elected to stay on the ground.
The operation went as planned; no one was hurt. And Sanchez and I continued driving around Imperial Beach talking about graffiti.