Breaking News: Armed Men Being Sought After Home Invasion Attempt Near New Harris Store
MULTIPLE UPDATES BELOW:
Original post: Various sources are reporting that law enforcement is searching for several armed men in the hills east of Garberville by the New Harris store. Kim Phelps, owner of the store said that a man and two partners attempted an armed invasion of his mother’s home in that area. Phelps who spoke to the mother said, “They had guns and duct tape. They shot through the bedroom window.”
For reasons that are yet unclear, it appears that the men left the home and their vehicle may have been located. The record of an accident early this morning gives some clues about what law enforcement has found. See below for some information. See here for the complete transcript.
Phelps said, “Three men have been seen in the hills around the New Harris store and are armed and dangerous.”
Scanner traffic indicates at least two subjects on foot are being sought. It also indicates that a helicopter has been called but “the fog is too low to the trees” for the copter to be of help at the time. They are waiting for the fog to lift.
Meanwhile local residents are on edge. Phelps says that the community is usually very relaxed about locking doors however, she said, that is changing. “I went and got all the keys out of the vehicles,” she said. “It’s freakin’ scary.”
RHBB has calls into law enforcement and will be following the scanner.
UPDATE 11:15 a.m.:
According to Lt. Wayne Hanson of the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, one man has been arrested not far from the area of the suspected home invasion. Bret L. Swortzel, age 34 of Humboldt County, was found in vicinity of the suspects’ car. He was arrested on outstanding warrants. Hanson said that law enforcement believes they have enough evidence to charge him with being one of the “three persons that conspired to break into the home.”
Lt. Hanson said that deputies have been on the case since last night when they received word of the incident. He said that one of the victims had fought off the intruder with a baseball bat. Hanson said that the intruder had fled but not until pepper spraying both the male and female residents who were not otherwise injured. The intruder and two of his accomplices fled in a vehicle but not until one of them fired at least one shot back into the home, Hanson said.
Then, according to the lieutenant, the victims contacted a neighbor who parked a car across the road to keep the suspects from escaping. The neighbor did not stay in the vehicle which was fortunate because the suspects vehicle struck the parked vehicle as they fled.
Hanson said the suspects eventually abandoned their vehicle but one man, Bret Swortzel, was captured nearby.
A CHP helicopter from Redding along with CHP officers on the ground as well as Humboldt County Sheriff deputies are in the area searching for the two additional subjects. They are believed to be white males wearing hoodies. Hanson warned that if anyone sees men acting suspiciously, do not approach. The suspects are believed to be armed and dangerous. Lt. Hanson asks that you call 911 to report sightings.
“Officers have been on job since six yesterday evening,” Hanson said. “We’re trying to get relief. We’ve sent two deputies down from our special services division.” Sgt. Kenny Swithenbank added that a third deputy has been sent out to the area also.
“We’re looking for any sightings from the public,” Hanson said. “We have deputies patrolling the road. We’re asking for the public’s help.” He does not believe that the general public is likely to be in danger. “The violence was dIrected towards the male and female victim,” he explained. “We don’t anticipate any more violence. The suspects targeted the victims. We’re trying to figure out why.”
Hanson said the victims are being cooperative and that the one suspect in custody is going to be interviewed.
We will be updating with more information as soon as possible.
UPDATE: 3:31 p.m.:
This is a press release from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office. The information has not been proven in a court of law and the individuals described should be presumed innocent until proven guilty:
On 03-03-2015 at about 00:20 a.m. the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office received a 9-1-1 call from a victim at a residence located in the 2700 block of South Face Road, Island Mountain. The female victim reported her 34 year old son; Seth Robert Morton Sr. came into her residence this morning wearing a ski mask and attempted to assault her husband, who is Morton’s step farther.
The female and male victim both stated they were pepper sprayed by one of the (3) male suspects, who came onto their property. The male victim told the deputies he was able to get a baseball bat from inside of his residence and hit one of the suspects several times with the bat to protect himself and his wife. The male victim was able to chase the suspects out of his residence.
The victims said as the (3) suspects fled the property one of the suspects fired a round from a firearm and the bullet struck the residence. The (3) suspects then fled the scene driving a white, late 80’s, SUV. A local citizen who was aware of the situation attempted to block the road by parking his vehicle in the middle of the road. The suspect vehicle stuck the unoccupied vehicle which resulted in the suspect vehicle crashing off the Island Mountain Road. The three suspects then took off on foot. The Sheriff’s office has seized the vehicle for evidence.
The Humboldt County Sheriff’ Deputies along with the California Highway Patrol Officers immediately started searching the area for the three suspects. At day break a CHP helicopter from Redding assisted in the search for the suspects. At about 9:00 a.m. the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office received several telephone calls from concerned citizens in the area of Island Mountain about a male subject, dressed in dark clothing, who was hiding off the road near the New Harris Store. Deputies responded to the area and located 34 year old Bret Lawrence Swortzel. Deputies detained Swortzel and learned he had a no bail parole violation warrant issued for his arrest. Deputies were able to obtained evidence and were able to place Swortzel under arrest for the Home Invasion Robbery.
Deputies were able to identify a second subject in the Home Invasion Robbery as Seth Robert Morton Sr., age 31. Further described as a WMA, 5’-10”, blonde hair with hazel eyes. Deputies have requested a Be On the Lookout (BOL) for Morton with other law enforcement agencies for his arrest for the following charges: attempted homicide, burglary, brandishing a firearm, convicted felon in possession of a firearm, convicted felon in possession of pepper spray and hit and run.
Bret Swortzel was booked into the Humboldt County Correctional Facility in Eureka on a no bail, parole violation warrant. Swortzel was also booked on fresh charges for home invasion robbery, conspiracy to commit a crime, convicted felon in possession of pepper spray and possession of a controlled substance.
Deputies are currently on scene looking for the other two suspect associated with this case. At this time there is no description for the third suspect associated with this case.
Anyone with information for the Sheriff’s Office regarding this case or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Sheriff’s Office at 707-445-7251 or the Sheriff’s Office Crime Tip line at 707-268-2539.
UPDATE 3:35 p.m.: RHBB was contacted by a resident of the area who said that a community member had parked a truck on a cattle guard in order to block outgoing traffic when the suspects were fleeing. The resident said the truck was parked in an area easily seen and yet the suspects rammed into that vehicle with theirs as they attempted to leave the area. In his opinion, they were trying to push the truck out of the way with their vehicle but instead, the resident said, their white Chevy Suburban with tinted windows was disabled and they abandoned it.
The resident said that the suspects left ziptie handcuffs and duct tape in the Suburban. The truck, however, only had a dented bumper.
According to the resident, after being notified of the possible home invasion, “we woke everyone up. Neighbors were driving up and down the road” looking for the suspects. He believes that there have been several sightings and the Sheriff’s Department has been following up on leads.
UPDATE 4:09 p.m.: Last month, Seth Morton was arrested in connection with a stolen vehicle in the Blocksburg area. (The Lost Coast Outpost has the story about the events of February 22 here.)
UPDATE March 4: KMUD has more information here.