US

Remote, rugged area strains California manhunt after kidnapping, killing, attack on deputies

Searchers are dealing with difficult high-desert terrain — tough to scan and even tougher to traverse — in a manhunt following a series of crimes that includes a kidnapping, a killing, and the wounding of two sheriff's deputies.

Dozens of deputies and helicopters were combing the sparsely populated mining territory 30 miles east of Bakersfield on Tuesday in heat at times surpassing 100 degrees. 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.

All three of the crimes were likely committed by one dangerous man on foot who has been breaking into unoccupied homes and taking firearms, Kern County sheriff's spokesman Ray Pruitt said.

Pruitt called the search "very challenging."

"It's rugged terrain," he said, "high desert, mountainous, a lot of the area is open, some of the area has shrubbery, bushes, tree lines, there are culverts ... it's a large area to cover, there are a lot of places to hide."

Pruitt said what signs of civilization there were in the remote area didn't necessarily help.

"The area is dotted with outbuildings, with unoccupied homes, unoccupied mobile homes and trailers," he 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.

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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