A combination of social media, alert neighbors and the practiced response of Sonoma County Sheriff’s deputies resulted in the capture of two suspects in a Sonoma car theft – but not before the escape of the driver led to a tense two-hour manhunt.
A resident of the west side of Sonoma discovered early Friday morning that her car, a 2004 blue Land Rover, was missing from her driveway. She reported the missing vehicle to the Sonoma Police at 6:06 a.m., then posted the incident with pictures of the vehicle on Nextdoor.
At about 5 p.m., a Nextdoor “neighbor” saw the vehicle on Marty Drive near Madrone Road in Glen Ellen. Sheriff’s dispatch was called and, when deputies arrived in the area, they saw the suspect, later identified as Zachary Stovall, a 23-year-old Clearlake man, driving the stolen car.
Seeing the deputies’ car, Stovall sped away and drove into the Grove Apartments at Madrone and Arnold, according to Spencer Crum of the Sheriff’s Office.
“As the car was still rolling, Stovall jumped out of the driver’s seat and fled as the car rolled into a tree causing minor damage,” said Crum. “Responding deputies formed a perimeter and called for the Sheriff’s helicopter and canine teams to assist in the ground search.”
The passenger in the car apprehended at the scene, Kera Anderson, 24, from Sonoma, was known to deputies from previous encounters.
A search was made of the Land Rover, and discovered .9 mm ammunition along with a .9 mm magazine but not the semi-automatic handgun itself. Believing that the suspect was armed, a public alert was sent for area residents to shelter in place.
Dispatch reported the manhunt and identified the man as wearing a San Francisco 49ers jersey and presumed to be armed.
Alert residents saw the suspect jumping fences in the immediate area and notified deputies. But it wasn’t until 7:30 p.m. that Stovall was located and arrested without incident in a backyard in the 15400 block of Thomas Street. He was unarmed, and sheriff photos show he was no longer wearing the football jersey.
A search for the missing handgun was undertaken, but a weapon was never found.
Stovall was booked into the Sonoma County Jail on charges of vehicle theft, possession of a stolen vehicle, being a felon in possession of ammunition and resisting arrest. As he is on county parole out of Lake County for a burglary conviction, he is being held without bail.
Anderson was booked into the Sonoma County Jail and charged with possession of a stolen vehicle and possession of drug paraphernalia, as she had two methamphetamine smoking pipes in her back pack. She is being held on $30,000 bail.
The woman whose car was stolen said she was advised on Nextdoor to check out the Facebook posts about the shelter-in-place activity, and discovered it was indeed her vehicle.
“I’m now sold on the positive power of social media and what can happen when a tight community cares,” she told her Nextdoor neighbors.
Email Christian at firstname.lastname@example.org.