Antioch reels from Target armed robbery, in-custody death in one day

Residents and law enforcement in Antioch were reeling from two violent encounters on Wednesday; one was a shooting inside Target, another was a man who died in police custody.

The latest was reported about 2 p.m. Shoppers were shocked by gunfire as armed robbers hit a CVS Pharmacy inside a Target store on Lone Tree Way.

One customer was wounded but will recover, and two teenage suspects are in custody.

"Terrifying, awful, I just can't believe it," said one shopper who arrived as the incident was unfolding. 

"Chaos erupted, people going every which way, screaming," described another customer.  

"They heard a pop, pop, pop, and they ran out of the back of the store," said Gene Moss of Brentwood, whose wife and 8-year-old granddaughter were terrified by the Target store gunfire. "My wife is shook up and my granddaughter was crying when she got home, but she's doing okay now." 

The two suspects are identified as Ramon Meza-Morales and Raul Garcia, both 18 and from Antioch. 

They were arrested on suspicion of armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon.

"It's very brazen to do that in the middle of the day, we generally find pharmacy robberies later at night," said Lt. Joe Donleavy of the Antioch Police Dept. "They did brandish a firearm at the pharmacy and they went behind the counter." 

The pair left with an undisclosed amount of narcotics, most likely opioid medication.   

On their way out, somehow a shopper was shot in the leg. 

"We don't know if there was a struggle at the door, if he just got in their way, or tried to intervene, we're still trying to piece that part of it altogether," said Donleavy. 

The robbers made it to their car, but drove into the path of an arriving police vehicle.   

"We just really think it was an incredible circumstance of the wrong place at the wrong time for them," said Donleavy. "They ran into the police car, the passenger fled, and the officer chased him on foot."

A gun tossed away by one of them was recovered. 

And as the Target incident unfolded, Antioch officials two hours later, were explaining an in-custody death that occurred shortly after midnight on Wednesday. 

"I want the people of Antioch to know they will be provided answers," said Mayor Lamar Thorpe, at a news conference held at 4 p.m. 

"Our officers are completely devastated by what happened last night," said Police Chief Tammany Brooks.

A Lyft driver called 911 to report someone trying to steal his cell phone. 

Officers arrived to find the suspect incoherent and behaving erratically in the road. 

"He was extremely paranoid and did not believe they were actually police officers although they were in uniform," said Brooks. 

Officers said they tried de-escalation techniques without success. 

"He attempted to enter a car that was stopped at a red light, pulling on the door handle and yelling at the driver to let him inside," Brooks said. 

Officers struggled to get him out of traffic and ended up tussling with him on the ground.

"According to officers, the man employed extraordinary strength and they were unable to gain control of his arms," said Brooks.

A third officer arrived and used a Taser on the man and he became compliant and was handcuffed. 

Shortly after, he lost consciousness. 

Officers employed CPR and used Narcan and a portable defibrillator but he could not be revived.  

"No knee or other limb was ever applied to this man's neck," said Brooks, clarifying that the suspect was never struck or pepper-sprayed.  "And the carotid restraint hold was never attempted."

The man was pronounced dead at the hospital; he was Latino, age 33, but his identity was withheld while his family is notified.  

Antioch is moving toward police reforms and more transparency under a new mayor and council members.

The chief noted the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department would conduct a homicide investigation, and another independent review would look at whether department protocol was followed. 

"I want the public to know I would request and expect involved officers to be held accountable," said Brooks. 

There is plenty of security video to review in and outside the Target store. 

But none from officers; Antioch Police do not wear body cameras, although the mayor and police chief plan to rectify that.