Manhunt ends with suspect in custody after Auburn shopping center shut down

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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An ex-Round Table Pizza worker armed with a handgun and threatening other employees at his former workplace led police on a tense manhunt Wednesday in Auburn. The suspect - Brian Michael Scarbrough, 23 - and weapon - a .45 caliber handgun - were found around 10 a.m. But not before the search shut down Elm Avenue’s Auburn Town Center for hours, with a helicopter hovering overhead and SWAT team on the ground. The search ended after Scarbrough was reported walking in the Auburn Ravine Road-Shockley Road area of Auburn about a mile to the east. Two patrol officers arrested Scarbrough without incident, Auburn Police Capt. John Ruffcorn said. Scarbrough had lived in Auburn in the past but currently has no fixed address, Ruffcorn said. Scarbrough was taken into custody on a concealed-weapon-possession charge. Possible additional charges include possession of a stolen weapon, burglary and making threats. He was booked into Placer County Jail with bail set at $100,000. As many as possible of the Auburn Town Center's night workers were removed at 1 a.m. after the perimeter of the Elm Avenue center and parking lot was secured by law enforcement. A merchant reported Scarbrough had displayed but not brandished a gun, Ruffcorn said. That came after Scarbrough had threatened employees at the center, he said. Scarbrough was sighted shortly after 3 a.m. near the center but then disappeared again, Ruffcorn added. The center, which includes Save-Mart and CVS Pharmacy stores, was closed off to the public at 1 a.m. but had reopened around 11 a.m. Also impacted was the adjoining Auburn Union Elementary School District office on Epperle Lane. Some workers who had arrived at 6 a.m. were kept in the building as the search fanned out into grasslands and a cemetery near the center. E.V. Cain Middle School, across Highway 49, was taking precautions during the search, including keeping P.E. classes inside and sending an electronic message to parents alerting them to the emergency taking place at the center. Auburn Union School District Superintendent Michele Schuetz said an E.V. Cain employee called Auburn Police at 7:15 a.m. and was told that lockdown procedures were not needed at that time. During a further call between Auburn Police Chief Valerie Harris and officials 15 minutes after the school’s 8 a.m. start time, there were no directions for a lockdown, Schuetz said. Instead, the school initiated a “modified sheltering” procedure that allowed children to change classes, but with teachers in the hallways to oversee their movements. The notification that went out let parents know that students were safe and the school wasn’t in lockdown, Schuetz said. “In the case of an emergency, we have a process in place but we follow the directions of emergency personnel,” she said. Ruffcorn said nothing led police to believe the suspect was in the school area. As well as Auburn Police, the Placer County Sheriff's Department and California Highway Patrol took part in the search. While a Round Table employee offered a terse “no comment” inside the store Wednesday, a neighboring storeowner – Judith Gordon-Lawson of Mountain Mama clothing – said her first thoughts were of relief that no one was hurt. Mountain Mama has been in the Elm Avenue shopping center for 20 years and Gordon-Lawson could recall nothing similar happening in the past. “It’s an inconvenience not to be in business during the emergency but it was worth it to be protected,” Gordon-Lawson said. Nearer Round Table, Noelia Acevedo of Noelle’s Alterations said she took a detour to enjoy some scenery in the nearby American River canyon when she found out the store wasn’t accessible. “It’s scary,” Acevedo said. “We tried to come in here and everything was closed.”