It was the morning of New Year’s Day, a quiet, sunny day in Santa Rosa, when most people are home recovering from parties held the night before, or watching football games on TV. And people working at convenience stores that stay open every day can usually expect an uneventful morning when they clock in for the holiday shift.
That was not the case for the clerk at Santa Rosa’s 7-Eleven store on Middle Rincon Road at the corner of Highway 12. According to the Sonoma Sheriff’s Office, that morning, before 10 am, the clerk saw that a man in the store was stealing a small bottle of 5-Hour Energy Drink, as well as a DVD. The clerk confronted the man, who, holding no more than ten dollars worth of merchandise, could have just dropped the stuff and run. The episode would have ended with perhaps a report to police about an attempted petty theft or shoplifting.
Christopher Lee Curtis, the 30-year-old man with the $3.00 energy drink and DVD (which probably sold for about $5.00), had other ideas. He pulled out his knife, threatening to stab the clerk if he couldn’t get away with his loot, and then ran across Middle Rincon to the Chevron gas station.
The clerk, looking for a weapon that could thwart a man with a knife, grabbed a long handled mop from the store and gave chase. The two tangled briefly in the gas station lot, Curtis at one point falling to the ground from a mop blow, getting up and then running away, back past the 7-Eleven and down Highway 12 westbound. The clerk did not continue the pursuit, notifying the Sheriff’s office of the incident at around 10 o’clock.
Responding deputies took the clerk’s statement, and reviewed surveillance video from the store, and from the Chevron station. They recognized the suspect as Curtis, from Sebastopol and Ukiah. On seeing a photo, the clerk confirmed he was the one he had tangled with.
Records show several arrests for Curtis over the past few years, including several charges of DUI and driving with a license suspended for DUI, along with trespassing, loitering, and in September of 2014 for possession of a controlled substance and paraphernalia. He was also charged with probation violations.
Curtis’s photo was released to local stores as a wanted man, and within a few days, on Sunday January 4, someone spotted Curtis at the Safeway Store on Mendocino Avenue, about four miles from the 7-Eleven. Deputies responded to the call, and found Curtis in front of the grocery store. When he saw them coming, however, he took off running, and the deputies ran after him. He ran behind the store and climbed over a fence. They caught up with him, but he still put up a fight before they were able to take him into custody.
Curtis and the deputies who caught him suffered minor injuries and abrasions from their final encounter, and he was arrested for robbery and resisting arrest. Other charges may be added related to his threats with the knife and battle with the deputies. Bail was reportedly set at $130,000.