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Fleeing suspect in Sonoma arrest attempt followed on Facebook

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For the second time in less than a month, an on-going law enforcement pursuit of a suspect was followed online by social media correspondents, providing a “live stream” of the search, helicopter surveillance – and eventual capture.

On Friday, Aug. 17, two suspects in an early-morning car theft were apprehended that same afternoon after extensive messaging on Nextdoor led to the Eldridge neighbors recognizing the stolen vehicle and calling the sheriff’s deputies. When they saw they were being pursued, the suspects crashed the car, with the driver escaping over a fence and eluding capture for almost two hours.

This time it was Facebook. On Saturday afternoon, Sept. 8, sheriff’s deputies and members of the Sonoma Police Department received a tip that a wanted felon was at a Sonoma home on Cypress Road. They gathered near the near the Petaluma Avenue address to strategize the arrest of Alexander Edwards, 36 (also known as Alexander Armenta), who had reportedly evaded capture nine times.

Edwards apparently saw the congregation of law enforcement, and sped toward them in his white pickup truck, narrowly missing deputies and their vehicles. When pursued, Edwards crashed his truck into a ditch and escaped on foot, jumping over fences and between houses in the El Verano neighborhood.

The Sheriff’s Office Henry-1 helicopter was called in to give aerial surveillance in hopes of locating Edwards.

A deputy with the Sonoma Police Department posted an account on the Sonoma Sheriff Facebook page that same afternoon, in response to multiple questions about the active chase, which included a helicopter flying low over the neighborhood.

“We received numerous calls from neighbors about Mr. Edwards’ flight path, and learned that he had stolen a child’s pink bike and was riding toward Sonoma,” it was reported on Facebook. The bicycle was lifted from a home in the neighborhood, evidently by the fleeing felon, who at some point discarded the bicycle basket from the front handlebars.

“Mr. Edwards rode his trusty steed to a local bar and asked the bartender for a ride because his wife was having a baby, but left when the bar staff questioned his current mode of transportation,” continued Facebook. The bar was confirmed as the Starling on Sonoma Highway at West Spain Street.

As the chase was on-going, members of the Sonoma Valley Community Information page on Facebook became actively engaged in reporting the progress of the pursuit and sightings of the suspect. That thread started with the simple post, “Helicopter over El Verano. Anyone?” which generated more than 140 comments.

Eventually law enforcement converged on the neighborhood of Junipero Serra and Fano, where the suspect had been seen headed toward a house in the 700 block of Fano. A pink girls’ bicycle was found outside one of the houses, and a 12-year old girl soon left the residence stating that a man was in her parent’s bedroom and had taken her phone from her.

“With help from Sonoma PD K9 Dickie, we found Mr. Edwards hiding in the attic and placed him under arrest,” the Sonoma Sheriff page reported.

Sgt. Spencer Crum of the Sonoma County Sheriffs Office confirmed that the suspect was located in the attic area of the house and, after refusing to come down, was hit by a Taser and pulled down into the room.

Edwards was arrested on suspicion of six felonies, including robbery, burglary, assault with a deadly weapon on an officer, child cruelty and evading arrest. He was booked into Sonoma County Jail on $200,000 bail.

The stolen bike was later reunited with its rightful owner, minus its handlebar basket, though sheriff’s deputies had ordered a replacement basket for the girl – who was later spotted on Facebook, happily riding her pink bicycle.

The suspect was named in another case in which he attempted to flee a traffic stop and, after a brief chase, was apprehended. In Oct. 2015, Edwards was pursued for erratic driving on Highway 101 near San Rafael, and sped away while throwing what turned out to be drugs out his window. He eventually crashed his vehicle and fled on foot but was apprehended.

During his apprehension he attempted what the arresting officer called “foot bail” and ran away; however, his pants fell down around his legs, slowing his flight. He was arrested at that time and booked on multiple charges.