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Gunfire rocks El Verano neighborhood

A party at a short-term vacation rental in El Verano turned violent early Saturday morning when someone walked from the residence into the street and shot several rounds of gunfire back at the house, into the air, and around the neighborhood, hitting nearby cars and other buildings, according to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office.

The incident occurred outside the residence at 19350 Riverside Drive in El Verano. Startled neighbors told the Index-Tribune the shots were fired around 3:45 a.m.

“I was awakened by the whole thing and I felt really vulnerable,” said Kitra Sutherland, 70, who lives behind Riverside Drive in the Sonoma Oaks mobile home park. "It was really loud and very scary. My first thought was -- is this a drive-by?“

According to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, multiple calls came in just after 3:45 a.m. about the gunshots; deputies had already responded twice earlier that night to complaints about the size and rowdiness of the party. When they arrived they “noticed damage to the house and spent bullet casings on the ground,” according to a Sheriff’s Office announcement on Facebook. In all, deputies found about 30 bullet casings from two guns.

Everyone at the party lives outside of Sonoma County, according to the Sheriff’s Office. No neighbors were injured; and investigators have received no reports of partygoers being wounded.

The off-site owner of the house, Clem Moore, described the incident as “a property owner’s nightmare.”

Moore told the Index-Tribune that he splits his time between residences in Sonoma and Austin, Texas and makes the Riverside house available for rental on VRBO when he’s away. He said in all the years he’s rented the house out, he’s “never had any issues, not a single one.”

Moore said the booking was made at the last minute and he was told eight to 10 people would be staying at the house but, according to neighbors, dozens more people showed up for a party.

“Apparently somebody walked out of the party and ended up shooting at my home,” Moore said by phone from Austin. “I don’t know how many casings, how many rounds were shot. There are bullet holes in the side of the house, two windows shot out. They shot down the road, at other buildings.”

Moore vowed to assist the police in any way he could in its ongoing investigation.

“Our neighborhood was terrorized,” Moore said.

Neighbor Zane Boehlke, 32, lives in an apartment building across the street and said when bullets began hitting the walls of his and his wife’s apartment he grabbed his 2- and 4-year-old children, got down on the floor with them and crawled into a room in the back.

Boehlke then crawled forward to peek out the window and said he saw “a guy just spray bullets at these two guys running.”

Boehlke said he then saw someone “staggering” through the parking lot behind his apartment building; the man appeared to be hurt. Boehlke said he was later told by Sheriff’s deputies that the man had injured his arm while fleeing the shooter.

"(The man) was taken to a nearby hospital with a minor injury,“ said the Sheriff’s report.

Boehlke said Moore’s vacation rental has been problematic with parties in the past.

“That (vacation rental) has parties all the time,” said Boehlke. “The biggest thing is lack of safety and lack of accountability with these rentals. These Airbnbs where they say there’s not going to be house parties, there’s going to be house parties.”

Violent Crimes detectives are actively investigating the incident. Anyone with information about the case should call Investigations at 707-565-2185.

Email Jason at jason.walsh@sonomanews.com.

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