Local News

Sunday, Mar 17 2013 04:00 AM

Rampage suspects outline day of terror

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Two motorcyclists pull out of the parking lot of the convenience store in Mettler that was robbed at gunpoint a while back, off Highway 99, north of Highway 166.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    This is the little convenience store in Mettler robbed at gunpoint a while back, off HIghway 99, north of Highway 166.

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BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

The 22-year-old man said to be behind one of the wildest crime sprees in Kern County in months blamed drugs, depression and demons for his rampage, according to court documents.

It happened March 1 in and around Mettler and Arvin. It would take a small article just to summarize the crimes that were committed, one after another. After sheriff's deputies put everything together, the suspect, Steven Lujan, was charged with robbery, attempted murder and other crimes.

Most of the victims don't want to talk about it, even now. But the documents detail a frightening picture of what transpired. A convenience store, was robbed, a car with a baby was rolled over and two victims had guns put to their heads and the triggers pulled. But the weapons didn't fire.

Later, in custody, Lujan, in heroin withdrawal and recovering from gunshot injuries in his hospital bed, told deputies in a rambling statement what had happened.

According to redacted Kern County Sheriff's Office reports filed in court, Lujan first blamed drug use and other factors, then laughed and admitted to some of the crimes when deputies told him about the evidence they'd recovered,

"I take full responsibility for my actions," the reports quoted Lujan as saying.

The following account is based on these reports.

Lujan said he'd been using heroin for months. He said he was driving to Los Angeles with a friend and, tired of what he said was her nagging, he hit her and pulled over near a section of the California Aqueduct near Highway 166 and Interstate 5.

He called a friend to pick him up -- a friend he called "Rene" and who deputies later identified as Rene Gomez -- and the two drove to Mettler. The reports said Lujan armed himself with a handgun and the two men entered the Freeway Express Market on Mettler Frontage Road.

Authorities estimate that Lujan and Gomez stole more than $10,000 from the market. As he left, Lujan turned toward the cashier, pointed the gun at her head and pulled the trigger.

Deputies said that an audible clicking noise is heard on the market's surveillance footage as Lujan pulled the trigger. But the gun didn't fire.

So Lujan and Gomez sped away.

Eventually they came to a sparsely populated area southwest of Arvin. While trying to pass another vehicle, with a mom and baby aboard, their car collided with it. Both vehicles flipped several times on North Rancho Drive just north of Teale Road.

In what now seems like something of a miracle, the mother suffered only minor injuries and her baby was uninjured in the crash.

Lujan and Gomez got out and ran into nearby orchards.

Lujan ran through the trees, crossed a canal and stripped down to his underwear. He took his clothes off because the drugs in his system made him uncomfortably hot.

He spotted a house nearby. He went in.

The homeowner, an elderly man, came inside after working in the yard and Lujan struck him on the head.

Lujan kicked and punched this victim and at one point struck him in the head with the butt of a shotgun he found in the home. He then dragged the man through the house and into a bedroom

There was a big safe in the room. He told the man to open it.

But the man lied to Lujan and said he was blind. He said he couldn't open the safe. So Lujan tried to kill again.

He put the shotgun to the man's head and tried pulling the trigger several times. But he'd already jammed the gun and it wouldn't fire.

Then, according to the victim, Lujan went into another room and used a phone to call his girlfriend. He began crying and told the girlfriend he was gong to "shoot the old man" and then kill himself.

Lujan then pulled the victim's clothing off and fondled him, according to the reports. The victim told deputies he pushed Lujan's hand away, and Lujan apologized and started crying again.

Lujan left the room and the victim used the opportunity to get dressed and escape through a sliding door at the back of the bedroom, the reports said. The victim saw his daughter-in-law and yelled to her to call 911 because there was a man with a gun who was trying to kill them.

By this point the end of the rampage was near.

The man's son came home and was told by his dad to get a shotgun from the smaller house on the property where the son lives.

The son came back outside with a shotgun and came across Lujan trying to leave in the son's pickup. Lujan saw him and raised the shotgun he'd stolen.

The son opened fire. He hit the windshield, shot a tire and also hit Lujan from about 15 feet away.

Deputies in a helicopter - who had responded to the reports of the robbery and then the crash - witnessed the shooting. The deputies landed and took Lujan to a hospital. He was later jailed.

Gomez, 28, was arrested a few days later and charged with robbery and hit and run resulting in injury.

The clerk of the market and family members of the man who was assaulted declined interviews.

Lujan told deputies he's asking forgiveness for everyone he terrorized that day, from the crash victims, to the clerk to the elderly man.

"The old man didn't deserve that," the reports said he told deputies.

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