LOS ANGELES (AP) — A weeklong manhunt launched after a killing, kidnapping and the wounding of two sheriff's deputies in California focused Tuesday on a remote area of sparsely populated mining territory.
Authorities said there was a strong possibility that all three crimes were committed by a dangerous man on foot who has been breaking into unoccupied homes and taking firearms.
"We believe at this point that we're looking for one suspect," Kern County sheriff's spokesman Ray Pruitt said.
The crime spree began on July 28 when three young men were held hostage at gunpoint in a cabin before escaping. Two days later, a man was found dead in a dwelling about 10 miles away, and on Saturday two SWAT team members were wounded as they searched a mobile home.
Dozens of deputies and helicopters were combing the high-desert 30 miles east of Bakersfield in triple-digit heat. Peaks in the area reach 7,000 feet, with the vast expanse of the Mojave Desert to the east and the San Joaquin Valley to the west.
Authorities warned residents to stay inside and lock their doors and windows. Two elementary schools and a middle school were closed indefinitely.
"We're having to move very slowly and meticulously," Pruitt said about the manhunt. "This is a suspect we consider to be armed and very dangerous. He has shown he is not hesitant to engage law enforcement officers in a shootout."
The manhunt began when three young men approached a squatter in a cabin who asked why they were on his property.
When one of the men said it was his cabin, the squatter pulled a shotgun and ordered them inside, holding the men for more than an hour and threatening to kill them.
The trio escaped and hiked several miles to a road.
Meanwhile, the gunman left in their car, which was found abandoned two miles away on Wednesday. Several firearms stolen from the men and the cabin also were found but not the shotgun.
The next day, David Louis Markiewitz's worried family found the 64-year-old man shot to death in his cabin. Pruitt didn't know what type of weapon was used to kill him.
A man with a high-caliber handgun confronted the SWAT team members on Saturday as they entered the mobile home during their search, Pruitt said.
The deputies returned fire, and Deputy Michael Booker was shot twice — once in each arm — and taken by helicopter to a hospital with severe injuries. He remained hospitalized in stable condition.
Senior Deputy Jose Perez was treated for a minor wound to his right ear.
Authorities described the fugitive as a white man in his early 30s, 5 feet 8 inches tall and 160 pounds, with long brown hair, blue eyes and wearing a brown corduroy hat and green bandanna.
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Associated Press writer Christopher Weber contributed to this report.