FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — APRIL 25, 2012 –
By Steve Marschke
A regional crime drama that included a huge manhunt and the six-hour closure of a major local freeway got its start when some employees of a West Sacramento repair shop arrived at work just before 6 a.m. on Friday.
B & R Head & Block Repair is a “family business,” reported Dieter Kutsch, a member of the family that runs it. The shop services big engine parts for a wide area around West Sacramento, and it’s located on an industrial stretch of Harbor Boulevard north of the freeway, where there isn’t a lot going on outside daylight hours.
Kutsch’s son, Dieter Kutsch, Jr., opened the door that morning for two employees, Keith and Robert.
“He turned the alarm system off for the guys, and the other two went in, while he went to get coffee. They walked toward the back, hitting the lights. It was still dark inside.”
They made a turn and started heading back on the other side of the building.
“There were lights upstairs,” said Dieter Kutsch, Sr. “Robert yelled ‘what’s going on?’ At that time, the shooter opened the door and started shooting at Keith and Robert. He shot three rounds at first. The guys went down onto the ground. They weren’t hit.”
The suspect – later ID’d as 38-year old Jimmy Lee Graves of Dieppe Way, Sacramento – had a revolver with him. Kutsch’s employees were pinned down, but they had some cover from posts and engine parts inside the building.
The pair hurriedly talked to each other and agreed to make a break for it, one at a time. They did — and the gunman shot at them again.
“They ran out (of the building) and at that time, Robert called 911 and then he called me,” said Kutsch. “They also wanted to contact my son, so he wouldn’t go back into the building not knowing what was going on.”
Kutsch’s son didn’t get the message – and he returned to the building to enter it evidently just as the shooter went out a window elsewhere.
Police arrived, not sure whether all the suspects were out of the building. They used tear gas to make sure it was clear. They established a perimeter, but the shooter was gone.
Graves allegedly took a Remington rifle with a scope from the shop – but dropped it nearby.
“I had my gun there because I had been hunting the previous day,” said Kutsch.
Why the break-in?
“It was a random deal,” said Kutsch. “There was no money in the shop, all our business is through accounts.”
Then, at 6:39 a.m., police received a phone call from near a liquor store at Poplar Avenue and West Capitol: the caller reported that a man in a long coat, with a gun, had just carjacked a brown Ford Focus.
Police spotted the vehicle and pursued at high speed. The suspect bailed on foot on the 2900-block of West Capitol, and then carjacked a white Ford F-150 pickup.
“Officers confronted the suspect, ordering him to surrender, and were fired on by the suspect,” reported Sgt. Nathan Steele of the West Sacramento Police Department.
The pickup fled west, shooting again at an officer and ramming a patrol car on West Capitol, causing the officer driving it to lose control. Then the pickup got on I-80 westbound, losing control and hitting a center divider. Law enforcement personnel set up a perimeter around this Yolo Causeway site – and entirely shut down traffic on the causeway.
The freeway wasn’t reopened until after noon. The closure by then had caused major Sacramento-area traffic trouble. Before stopped traffic was allowed to pass, vehicles were inspected by officers to make sure the suspect wasn’t hiding inside.
At this point, there were several law enforcement agencies involved – including SWAT teams, K-9 teams and helicopters, said Steele. The manhunt eventually grew to involve 12 agencies.
Now there were two “active crime scenes” – but a call came in at about 10 a.m. that there had been another carjacking, near County Road 127 and River Road. Yolo sheriff’s deputies responded, learning that somebody in a suspected-stolen tractor had approached a male victim and struck him over the head. The victim’s vehicle – a 2008 Ford F-150 – was taken.
The victim was said, in some media reports, to have been a birdwatcher. He wasn’t seriously injured.
That victim’s pickup was later found abandoned near Lenwick and Morse Avenue in Sacramento, said Steele.
Investigators followed leads, checking on “numerous potential suspect locations.”
At about 6:55 p.m., the Sacramento sheriff’s department checked out one of those locations, an apartment at 1968 Ethan Way.
“While attempting to secure the scene in the 1900 block of Ethan Way a suspect fled from Sacramento County Deputies, barricaded himself and started a fire in the apartment,” reported Steele in a press release. “After a standoff in which the suspect was repeatedly ordered to surrender, the suspect was shot by Sacramento County deputies to allow for emergency personnel to extinguish the rapidly growing fire.”
Graves was killed.
Steele declined to discuss whether the suspect had a criminal history.
The Sacramento Bee reported that family members said the man had trouble holding a job, as well as drug problems, a failing marriage, and pending charges on a robbery.
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Copyright News-Ledger 2012