A chaotic — and dare we say drug-fueled? — situation in San Luis Obispo County on Sunday turned into a tense standoff in which a bunch of Hearst Castle tourists had to shelter in place until it was safe to go back to the parking lot.
The story begins around 9 a.m. Sunday, when authorities were called to a municipal utilities yard in Cambria, where a 36-year-old suspect was reportedly smashing vehicles and other property that belonged to the Cambria Community Services District. As Bay Area News Group explains, via the sheriff's office, a district employee tried confronting the suspect, and that is when the suspect "brandished a machete and took off in one of the district’s trucks."
The suspect then drove up Highway 1 to Hearst Castle where he allegedly broke through an entrance gate with the pickup truck, and then through a second gate, ultimately running to hide inside Casa Del Mar — one of the lavish guest houses on the property, and one in which newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst and family lived during the construction of the main house, also known as La Casa Grande.
An ensuing standoff led to a shelter-in-place order for all of the tourists at the property.
After the suspect refused to leave the building, officers went in and one officer, with the help of a K-9 parnter, subdued the suspect. He was booked into county jail after being treated for dog bites, per Bay Area News Group.
The San Luis Obispo Tribune identifies the suspect as Jarrod Michael Crockrom. He's facing possible charges of felony assault with a deadly weapon, receiving stolen property, vandalism of $10,000 or more, resisting arrest, and failing to obey a peace officer, and his bail was set at $25,000.
A Facebook page that appears to belong to Crockrom shows a troubled man repeatedly reaching out with sometimes cryptic messages to friends, and family members responding with alarm. In one post from three years ago, he asks, "OK, now what? Sneak into the castle, or?? FML."
Cambria Community Services District Acting General Manager Ray Dienzo tells the Tribune that Crockrom appears to have gotten upset after trying to steal some large wooden planks. Also, he was frustrated enough to smash the windows of his own car, a small station wagon — and in frigid temps around 40 degrees, Crockrom was reportedly half naked.
"We suspect that the perpetrator’s car got stuck in the mud [nearby] and he saw some planks in our yard," Dienzo said. “He busted into the yard to get some big planks... [And when he couldn't for some reason] He went on a rampage.”
The implement used to do some of the damage was a plank that weighed between 200 and 300 pounds. The district estimates the damage to vehicles and other property between $50,000 and $100,000.
The district employee who confronted Crockrom apparently had left the keys in his running truck, and that was the vehicle Crockrom allegedly stole.
State Parks officials and rangers who work Hearst Castle did not initially report any damage to art or artifacts in Casa Del Mar, but the building remains closed as it is a crime scene. The primary damage, parks officials said, was done to the heavy, electronically controlled gate on the hill that was busted through.
Photo by Catalina Johnson