Santa Barbara police have released new details surrounding last Thursday’s incident during which an elderly woman was robbed and kidnapped at the La Cumbre Plaza shopping mall.
According to a press release issued Friday by city police spokesperson Paul McCaffrey, 37-year-old suspect Brian Carner — who was arrested on May 6, the same day the crime took place — is new to the area. He reportedly decided to stick around town after working for the recent Fair & Expo at the Earl Warren Showgrounds from April 28 to May 2, camping out in an empty horse stall when the carnival moved on.
NOTE: Previous press releases issued by the Santa Barbara Police Department indicated that the suspect’s name was Brian Carver. After speaking with a Watch Commander, the Independent learned that his name is in fact Brian Carner.
A former resident of Salt Lake City, Utah, Carner is facing charges in that state for possession of child pornography and domestic violence threats. According to McCaffrey — who has been in touch with a Utah detective — Carner’s former girlfriend discovered a stash of child porn in Carner’s possession and reported it to the police. Once he caught wind of the investigation, Carner skipped town but not before making threats to the woman and her children.
The victim of Thursday’s incident had reportedly been shopping and eating at La Cumbre Plaza and was on her way back to her car, a black Mercedes SUV, when she was accosted by Carner. The 69-year-old woman told police that as she set down her bag of purchases and opened the driver’s door, Carner — whom she had noticed loitering in the area — appeared directly behind her. Opening the driver’s side passenger door and sticking a gun through, Carner allegedly told her to get inside. Fearing for her life, the woman did so while Carner got in the rear passenger seat directly behind her.
Carner, said McCaffrey, then told the woman to drive onto Hope Avenue, turn right on State Street, and proceed to Gelson’s Market. During the trip, the suspect demanded the victim’s cash, about $150 dollars, which she handed over. He then, the victim told police, made her turn right on Las Positas Road and then right onto McCaw Avenue, eventually forcing her to drop him off near the condominium complex on McCaw Avenue.
Once Carner was out of the car, the victim immediately left the scene and called police from a nearby friend’s house. She reportedly saw Carner talking on a cell phone as she drove away.
After conducting a search of the area — which included sealing of the Municipal Golf Course and putting Adams Elementary School on lockdown — police located and arrested Carner at the Mobile gas station on Las Positas Road. Police also reportedly located a witness at La Cumbre Plaza who was able to positively identify Carner as someone she had witnessed loitering in the area in the days prior.
Upon questioning at police headquarters, Carner purportedly admitted to the crime and led police to the gun, cash, and cell phone as well as the clothes he was wearing during the incident. The handgun, said McCaffrey, turned out to be a toy.
Carner is facing charges of kidnap and robbery and his bail is set at $1,000,000. A booking photo has not yet been released.