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Wanted Man Arrested After Extensive Search on Gaviota Coast

Fitim Burgazi Click to view larger
Fitim Burgazi

Law enforcement agencies mounted a full search for a wanted person in the Arroyo Quemada area on Tuesday, and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department revealed Wednesday that the man had escaped from Ventura County’s electronic-monitoring program.  

At least eight sheriff’s units, K-9 units and a county Air Support helicopter were dispatched to the area Tuesday morning, according to Lt. Rob Plastino, and an emergency notification through the 9-1-1 system went out to residents on Arroyo Quemada Lane.

The circumstances of the search and why the extensive search was instigated weren’t clear Tuesday, when Plastino said State Parks personnel encountered a man who said he needed to be left alone and would harm himself. The man then ran off down the railroad tracks, Plastino said.

“Our concern was that he may have something to hurt himself or hurt himself by being on the tracks,” he told Noozhawk at the time.

People living in the area were told to shelter in place while law enforcement teams searched the area around 10 a.m., and K-9 units were searching for the man using clothing that belonged to him, Plastino said.

Information released by the department on Wednesday indicates the man, 38-year-old Fitim Burgazi, was first located at the Arroyo Hondo Vista Point, and told a State Parks lifeguard that he had a weapon and intended to hurt himself.

Responding deputies identified Burgazi, who had a felony warrant out for his arrest after escaping a custody facility, according to the Sheriff’s Department. He also allegedly violated terms of his felony probation.

“We didn’t know he was an escapee until later when, during our search for him, his vehicle plate was run and his name came up,” Plastino said Wednesday.

A perimeter was established and a search started in the Arroyo Quemada area with probation, State Parks, California Highway Patrol and deputies, authorities said.

Burgazi was identified just before he was found hiding in bushes by a sheriff’s K-9 unit, Plastino said.

“When Burgazi was found, he was in possession of a knife and stated he intended to kill himself,” Plastino said in a statement.

He said there was a two-hour negotiation with Burgazi at the scene, before he was taken into custody around 1 p.m.

“Information was obtained by probation personnel that Burgazi’s spouse believed he intended to force law enforcement to shoot him,” he said.

“Burgazi was observed placing the knife to his throat and began a cutting motion, which deputies believed would cause great body harm or death. A pyrotechnic distraction device was deployed in conjunction with less lethal ‘bean bag’ projectiles.”

Burgazi surrendered a few minutes later, without harming himself, and was taken to a local hospital for treatment before being booked into the Santa Barbara County Jail, according to the Sheriff's Department. 

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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