By Roger H. Aylworth
CHICO, Calif. — Police work often involves danger, but when Chico officers were hunting an alleged attempted murderer Wednesday night they faced an unusual hazard a mountain lion.
Chico police Sgt. Rob Merrifield said the encounter came while officers were looking for Lance Earl Rose, who is accused of trying to stab his stepmother to death.
Rose allegedly attacked his stepmother, Maria Rose, and four other individuals, Tuesday morning inside the office of the Salvation Army Community Church on East 16th Street.
A car chase ensued and police followed Rose to just below the town of Cohasset, where the suspect abandoned his car and escaped successfully into the brush.
Merrifield said police identified an office on the Chico airport at 275 Fairchild Ave., Suite 103, as a place where Rose had operated a yard maintenance business, and late Wednesday night officers staked out the location, hoping to catch the suspect there.
However, the first fugitive they encountered was of the four-footed variety.
Saying he was not personally present at the stake-out, Merrifield explained a fellow officer reportedly spotted a mountain lion loping down Fairchild.
Shortly after the mountain lion made its exit, officers discovered Rose hiding in the nearby bushes, and he was taken into custody without further incident.
"We might have saved his (Rose's) life," Merrifield speculated. He said a man hiding in the bushes might have been a tempting target for a mountain lion.
The cat disappeared into the night and the officers were too busy seeking the alleged human predator to follow the cougar.
Rose was booked into Butte County Jail on charges of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, burglary, and exhibiting a weapon. He is being held on $1,053,000 bail.
Earlier Wednesday officers went to a spot seven miles due north of Cohasset, called Bennett Spring, in search of Rose. While they didn't find him, the officers located "a bunch of pot plants," according to Merrifield.
The sergeant said the people living in the area all had medical marijuana ID cards. He said, since the location was over the Tehama County line, the Chico officers took no action except to notify the Tehama County Sheriff's Office of the location of the plants.