COARSEGOLD — 41-year-old George Walter Rosenberg was found dead shortly before 6 p.m. on Friday, Jan 18, with a loaded rifle on his lap, according to the Madera County Sheriff’s Office.
It was the culmination of a manhunt that began a few hours earlier in the winding roads just off Road 415 west of Coarsegold.
Based on what deputies found at the scene, it is believed that Rosenberg was “laying in wait” for deputies to arrive, hidden on a rise above the barn where he had abandoned his truck.
On Friday at around 3 p.m., a sheriff’s deputy patrolling in the area spotted Rosenberg’s truck at a resident near Coarsegold. The deputy knew the truck, and knew the man who owned it. He also knew that the owner was wanted on a no-bail warrant for narcotics, specifically methamphetamine.
Sheriff’s officials say that as the deputy got out of his vehicle and approached the truck, the driver accelerated and headed straight toward him.
As the truck was barreling down on him, the deputy pulled out his gun and shot at the truck, but it continued to accelerate, says the Sheriff’s Office. The deputy jumped out of the way as the driver attempted to run him down, then got back into his vehicle and took off after the suspect, radioing for assistance.
Sheriff’s deputies and California Highway Patrol officers saturated the area – driving through narrow side streets, and blocking off all avenues of escape, in an attempt to find Rosenberg, who had now added “attempted murder of a peace officer” to his list of crimes.
News crews from the Valley, Channel 30 and Channel 24, began to arrive at the Coarsegold Elementary School, staging outside the fence, awaiting news of the manhunt now underway throughout the entire area along Road 415, and Trabuco and Wells Roads.
Erica Stuart, Public Information Officer for the Madera County Sheriff’s Office, arrived on the scene at about 5 p.m., sharing what limited information was available. When asked about CHP assistance, Stuart stated that “any officers who are on shift now are helping us out. Sheriff and CHP work hand-in-hand up here, it’s a very tight knit family. We work very well together.”
Information about the search area and strategy was not forthcoming in an attempt to protect the officers. “There’s no way to know if the suspect is using a scanner, or listening to the radio,” said Stuart.
CHP’s aerial support team H-40 had joined in the search, and were scouring the area, looking for the 1998 Toyota pickup, described as very dark green, almost black, a bit battered from possible previous accidents.
Coarsegold Elementary, although not in danger, was notified of the situation and, as a precautionary measure, the school was temporarily placed on lock down.
School had already been dismissed for the day, but many students were still on campus for sports or after-school programs. Lock down was lifted at about 4:45 p.m., and parents began arriving to pick up their students.
At approximately 5:35 p.m., deputies located the truck they had been searching for. It was hidden inside a barn located near Rocky Ridge and Wells Road, but the suspect was not in the vehicle.
Some twenty minutes later, they found Rosenberg, who Sheriff’s officials say had positioned himself in a spot where he could see movement near the barn, but anyone searching the barn wouldn’t be able to see him.
Sheriff John Anderson says Rosenberg was found hidden on the property with a rifle on his lap, and that it appeared he was laying in wait to shoot at deputies.
However, the suspect had evidently sustained a wound during the earlier confrontation, and eventually succumbed to that injury at some point before deputies arrived.
Sheriff Anderson said this incident is “a prime example of the drug problem that plagues our county as well as the entire San Joaquin Valley.“
Records show Rosenberg was arrested in February last year in Coarsegold on drug charges. The Sheriff’s Office does not believe Rosenberg lived in Madera County. His truck was registered to an address in Mariposa, and booking records show his residence as Stockton.
The deputy involved in the shooting was uninjured, and is described by Stuart as, “A veteran cop, very calm, very methodical, he knows his stuff.”
The incident remains under investigation.