San Francisco Bay Area Violent Crime

Cruz Vargas Charged in Alleged Bank Robbery, Manhunt That Closed Hwy 17 to Enter Plea Next Month

The 21-year-old man charged with robbing a bank in Scotts Valley and leading sheriff’s deputies on a 30-hour manhunt in the Santa Cruz Mountains earlier this year appeared in court in San Jose today. Cruz Vargas, who was arrested on Jan. 27 by over 50 police officers in the Northside neighborhood of San Jose where he lived, faces a maximum sentence of 23 years and four months in state prison if convicted of all 13 charges, Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Daisy Nishigaya said.

The manhunt began on Jan. 26 after a Bank of America branch in Scotts Valley was robbed. A Scotts Valley police officer shot at Vargas during the ensuing pursuit on state Highway 17, which was shut down as officers, and then Santa Clara County sheriff’s deputies sought the armed suspect. Schools in the area were closed as a precaution while the suspect remained at large.

Vargas allegedly broke into a home in the Redwood Estates area and stole a woman’s minivan at knifepoint, which was soon disabled after deputies set up spike strips. At some point, Vargas allegedly stole a 2009 silver Chevrolet Malibu that was an unmarked law enforcement car parked at the home of an officer in the area.

San Jose police located the car on Jan. 27 and followed it into the Northside neighborhood, where they arrested Vargas and two other occupants in the car.

Vargas has been charged with carjacking, robbery within an inhabited dwelling, residential burglary, assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer, two counts of robbery of a person, stealing a car with a prior offense, driving or taking a stolen car with a prior offense, felony evasion, misdemeanor evasion, two counts of hit and run and misdemeanor resisting arrest.

The assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer took place when Vargas crashed into a police vehicle, Nishigaya said. Prosecutors are alleging that Vargas has three prior stolen car offenses, which would each add an additional year to his sentence. Vargas is being represented by Ron Rayes. He is expected to enter a plea on April 11.

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