Ojai man assaulted by invaders
by Lenny Roberts
Two masked and armed men, believed to have been in their mid-20s,
are being sought by authorities for allegedly robbing two men
inside their Crestview Drive home late Sunday night.
According to Sheriff's Detective Joe Evans, conflicting statements
by homeowner Bruce Ditchfield and 20-year-old renter, John Reason,
indicate that there may have been a third person involved in
the 10:30 p.m. robbery.
The perpetrators reportedly ransacked the home and took personal
property, cash and checks after tying up the victims with plastic
tie wrap. Ditchfield, 46, said a pillowcase was put over his
head after he was bound, but was able to describe the assailants
as both being approximately 5 feet, 10 inches tall, Caucasian
and wearing black beanie-type hats and black bandannas to hide
"The guy with the gun was very calm and cool," Ditchfield
Before deputies arrived at the house, the victims discovered
an Uzi-type, semi-automatic, assault-looking handgun, later determined
to be registered to a Ventura man, in a duffel bag at the front
door, which was full of and adjacent to thousands of dollars
worth of camera and computer equipment the suspected robbers
had gathered from throughout the house but inexplicably left
behind. Ditchfieldlater confirmed that $500 in cash, $1,500 in
checks, credit cards, a cell phone, a speaker and a computer
hard-drive had been taken.
"They cut me loose out of the blue," Ditchfield recalled.
"I pulled the pillowcase off of my head, got up, and looked
outside to make sure they were gone before I got a knife and
cut Johnny loose."
Ditchfield added that they picked up the duffel bag and the Uzi
and two full clips spilled out.
Evans did not seem especially surprised that the weapon was left
"It's pretty unusual but not unheard of in these types of
robberies to find a weapon at a crime scene," he said.
Ditchfield said that he was watching television when the men
entered and began making demands.
"It would be nice to know what this was all about,"
he said. "When they came in, I was lying on the couch. One
of them said, 'Where are the tapes - let's have them.' I told
them that there are no tapes here, and they tied my hands behind
my back. I told them that they had made a mistake and they were
in the wrong house."
At that point, Ditchfield said that the other man kicked him
in the back, breaking a rib, and punched in the side of the head.
Additional denials by the victim led to a search of the house.
Evans said that Ventura County has generally been immune to actual
home invasion crimes, where a suspect is targeted and followed
home before being assaulted and robbed, and that this crime is
probably just an isolated incident
"It appears that the victims in this case were targeted
by the suspects and that it was a random crime, the first of
its kind in memory," Evans said.
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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