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Two Santa Cruz police officers and a suspect were killed in an exchange of gunfire this afternoon, a Santa Cruz County sheriff’s spokeswoman said. Nearby residents and employees reported hearing two separate bursts of gunfire — one in the area of the 800 block of North Branciforte Avenue, and another in the 100 block of Doyle Drive, at a residence near the Whole Foods Market.
Sheriff’s spokeswoman April Skalland said the first gunfire occurred after officers went to North Branciforte Avenue as part of an investigation. Several schools in the area were locked down, and while streets nearby remained closed, the students were being transported to the county building at 701 Ocean St. where they were being reunited with their families.
Shortly before 7 p.m., a school bus had arrived to transport the children there. Skalland declined to say whether any additional suspects are being sought. The FBI is assisting police, an FBI spokeswoman said. A resident who declined to give his name said he was sitting in his house in the 800 block of North Branciforte Avenue when he heard gunfire across the street around 3:30 p.m. Police soon arrived, he said. About half an hour later, he heard a “multitude of gunfire” coming from an area near the Whole Foods parking lot nearby. He said he saw two gurneys being rolled down his street.
At about 4:45 p.m., he said the street was filled with at least 25 marked police cars. An employee at Darco Printing and Paper Store located at 130 Doyle St. said the second shooting happened a couple of doors down from the paper shop. The employee, Megan, who declined to give her last name, said the business had received an automated call from Santa Cruz police at about 3:40 p.m. The message stated that a high-profile incident was occurring, and instructed the business to go on lockdown.
She and another employee locked the doors, and a while later heard a lot of gunfire coming from down the street. “It was fairly close,” she said. Police have swarmed the neighborhood, she said. “At one point there were approximately 20 officers all hiding behind a van with their guns drawn,” Megan said. She said a slew of law enforcement agencies have responded, including the sheriff’s office and “every police department in the area, from Scotts Valley to Watsonville.
” Shortly before 6:30 p.m., an hour after they were supposed to go home, she and the second employee remained on lockdown. The Whole Foods was still on lockdown, and a pharmacy employee at an adjacent Rite Aid said that business was closed. Police ordered a lockdown at Midtown Montessori at 818 N. Branciforte Ave. at 4 p.m., a preschool employee said. The employee said all students are safe. There are several schools in the block where the first shooting happened.
At the time of that shooting, some elementary school students were playing outside across the street from where officers were investigating, waiting for their parents to pick them up, a parent said. They were quickly pulled back indoors after the gunfire broke out, said Mike Stout, a parent of two girls, ages 6 and 9, at one of the schools. “I just feel nervous, why are they taking so long?” Stout said. “What we’re curious about is that they came here at 3:30 for an investigation” just as school was letting out.
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