Watsonville police today released a 911 call made by a manager at a Big 5 Sporting Goods store Tuesday after an armed man came into the business and started firing shots, prompting officers to shoot and kill him. Letitia Mello made the call at about 11:10 a.m. from a locked office inside the store on South Green Valley Road.
“I have a person that is robbing me right now of my firearms,” Mello told a female 911 dispatcher. That person, later identified by police as 22-year-old Robin Miranda, came into the store and was trying to take a rifle or shotgun from the store’s display case, Mello said.
He had come into the store earlier that morning and asked about buying a shotgun and ammunition, and Mello had spent at least half an hour talking with him, according to police Lt. David McCartney. He then left the store, went to his car and returned a short time later with a bag containing an extension cord and tools including a grinder, McCartney said.
“He is at the firearms counter and … he’s sawing off the gun,” Mello, who at this point still sounded relatively calm, said during the 911 call. “He’s actually loading the gun. Please, please send someone.” McCartney said Miranda broke a shotgun out of its wooden holder and used the grinder to sever a lock that was on the trigger guard.
While Mello was on the phone with dispatchers, she said she could hear Miranda trying to open the office door, McCartney said. After hearing Miranda fire a shot, Mello told the dispatcher she had gotten underneath a desk and said, “I have two employees out there that are unprotected.” McCartney said the employees were able to flee out a rear exit.
After hearing Miranda fire two more shots, Mello started crying and told the dispatcher, “Oh my God, he’s shooting again. Oh God.” While Miranda was roaming around, he padlocked the front doors shut using a bicycle lock, McCartney said. However, when police arrived, five officers were able to open the lock and enter the business.
The officers confronted Miranda inside the store near the firearms section and demanded that he drop his weapon, McCartney said. Miranda allegedly refused to comply, and two of the officers shot and killed him. McCartney said police fired five rounds, striking Miranda twice. Officers rendered first aid to Miranda, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.
The two officers, identified as Officer Zane Ota, a school resource officer and 31-year veteran of the department, and Detective Danny Thul, who has been on the force for 10 years, have been placed on paid administrative leave, as is protocol in officer-involved shootings. McCartney said Watsonville officers are trained for situations involving an active shooter.
Miranda is a resident of Watsonville. Although it remains unclear what motivated his actions on Tuesday, McCartney said it was apparent he had planned it to some extent. McCartney said police have had contact with Miranda before, including last year when he led police on a chase.
An officer had spotted him driving erratically Nov. 5 and tried to pull him over but Miranda refused to yield, McCartney said. He was eventually taken into custody. He had also been arrested for minor thefts, McCartney said. The investigation into the shooting included assistance from the Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s Office and Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office.
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