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Sophisticated surveillance helped thwart robbery at SF marijuana grow

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A robbery at a marijuana growing operation in the Bayview on March 6, 2013, led to a standoff between a suspect and San Francisco police. - MIKE KOOZMIN/THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Mike Koozmin/The S.F. Examiner
  • A robbery at a marijuana growing operation in the Bayview on March 6, 2013, led to a standoff between a suspect and San Francisco police.

A high-tech alarm and surveillance system helped police swiftly respond last week to an armed robbery at a Bayview district marijuana growing operation.

More details were released about the botched heist at Wallace Avenue and Jennings Street that led to a six-hour standoff but also the arrest of four suspects and the safe rescue of four hostages.

About 3:45 a.m. Wednesday, the four men allegedly attempted to rob at gunpoint a legal grow operation containing about 1,000 plants and an unknown quantity of processed marijuana. Four employees were present when the masked crooks busted in, police said.

Officers managed to arrive while the crooks were still there because, according to police, the owner of the warehouse had an alarm that, when activated, notified his cellphone.

“He switched on the live video stream coming from the surveillance cameras in the building,” according to the Bayview Police Station. “The streaming video showed an armed suspect kicking in the door of the building.”

The owner called police as he watched three more suspects exiting the building’s rear door, located in the 2100 block of Jennings Street. The front door is on Wallace Avenue.

Then came a scramble.

“One of the suspects, who was wearing a ski mask, knocked down one of the officers who was attempting to apprehend him and continued to run south on Jennings,” police said.

The suspect was reportedly seen on Yosemite Street tossing into a trash receptacle a ski mask, an undisclosed amount of cash he had stolen from one of the employees, and several bags of a cannabis product known as kief.
Officers were able to detain the suspect only after a “wild and violent” struggle, police said.

The second suspect reportedly gave up immediately, while the third was discovered hiding under a parked RV on Wallace Avenue.

The fourth suspect was apparently the most stubborn.

Police knew his whereabouts when the owner of the facility provided the live video feed.

“They could see that a fourth suspect was still inside the warehouse holding the employees at gunpoint,” police said.

That led to six-hour standoff. About 8:30 a.m., police said, officers entered the building and safely evacuated the four employees.

William Carter, a 22-year-old San Francsco resident, reportedly surrendered after police warned they were sending in a dog to go after him.

“The suspect said, ‘I surrender, don’t let the dog bite me,’” Sgt. Michael Andraychak said.

The other suspects were identified as San Francisco residents Damien Thomas, 33; Joseph Hall, 30; and Daniel Contreras, 40.

maldax@sfexaminer.com