Authorities had a parking lot near the intersection of Hollister and Kellogg avenues in Goleta blocked off for about five hours Monday while they surrounded the Sizzler restaurant, believing an armed robber was inside. He wasn’t, but just across the street at a Toyota car dealership, the sheriff’s department arrested a man they believe to be involved in the robbery of the restaurant.
Around 9:25 a.m. on Monday, Sheriff’s deputies arrived at the Sizzler at 5555 Hollister Avenue and established a perimeter around the building, unsure of the location of the suspect whose alleged hold-up of the restaurant drew emergency calls from people in the area. Two employees were opening the Sizzler for business that day when a man wearing a ski mask and carrying a gun showed up. The gunman escorted one employee to a room where money is presumably kept, telling him that everything was going to be alright. The remaining employee encountered two others showing up for work, and the three were able to escape the restaurant. The fourth employee eventually got out as well, but it wasn’t known until much later if the robber was still in the restaurant or if he acted was alone in the robbery.
The four victims were taking to the Sheriff’s department command post at St. Raphael’s Catholic Church on Hollister, where they were questioned. After being released, none of the four witnesses would comment to reporters. The manager of the restaurant said his regional manager forbade them from making comments.
Nearby residents and businesses were evacuated, including Deli Planet, which is across the parking lot from Sizzler. Antonio Vito, owner of the Deli Planet, said he was in the deli when a dishwasher rushed in and told him to call 911 because he saw a man with a gun. Dozens of onlookers waited in the parking lot to see what would happen, but were kept at a distance by deputies.
Not long after the incident took place, employees at the Toyota dealership had noticed a suspicious man walking around the parking lot and going in and out of the bathroom inside the building. One employee – Augie Rodriguez, who works in the service garage – said he saw the same man walking in the parking lot behind the Toyota dealership around 9:30 a.m. Rodriguez said the suspicious man was near the service garage bathroom, not wearing a shirt and with a tan shirt draped over his shoulder. The suspect walked around the back parking lot for a bit, and eventually put on his shirt, Rodriguez said, but he didn’t know where the man continued to.
Deputies investigated at the Toyota dealership, and found an undisclosed amount of money, a ski mask and a small handgun in the garbage can inside the bathroom. After talking with workers at the dealership, investigators put out a description of a man who was about 6 feet tall, wearing khaki pants and a Hawaiian shirt, although they were saying he might have changed his clothes. Not more than five minutes later, at about 11:25 a.m., a man matching the description of the suspect was spotted by authorities as he casually walked south in the dealership parking lot.
Deputies who had been taping off the bathroom inside the dealership sprinted out the door, guns drawn, and swarmed the man. The man didn’t immediately respond to the deputies, but turned around, put his hands above his head and got on the ground as five officers with guns surrounded him and eventually took him into custody. While handcuffed the man could be heard asking, “What did I do?” A bevy of media and onlookers surrounded the scene, and as more deputies arrived in the area to push back the crowd. The man was led to a waiting UCSB police car.
The man was later identified as Bahram Jabaroghli, a 42-year-old resident of Pasadena. He has been booked into Santa Barbara County Jail on charges of robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and false imprisonment. His bail has been set at $1 million.
Authorities are currently determining the man’s involvement, if any, in the crime, but are “very confident he’s involved,” said Sheriff’s department spokesman Erik Raney. No information has been released about the man, who appeared to be in his 40s. Although the man had been detained, the scene at Sizzler was still active, with a SWAT team moving into position, and eventually moving into the restaurant. Just before 2 p.m. the SWAT team emerged. No one else was found inside, and the parking lot and neighboring business were allowed to reopen.