Valley Pure thwarts theft in Woodlake
Cannabis dispensary Valley Pure forces thief out of private selling room, PD confident safety measures are working
By Paul Myers @PaulM_SGN
WOODLAKE – Residents were worried that crime would beset Woodlake if they allowed a dispensary in town. In light of an attempted robbery at Valley Pure in Woodlake’s downtown last Friday afternoon, there is little to be worried about.
Valley Pure district manager Wes Hardin says since Friday things have not only calmed down, it is all but forgotten.
“It was nothing. It was a non-issue. Just a customer acting rowdy is all,” Hardin said.
Christopher Vance, 27, from Visalia walked into the Valley Pure check-in area on Friday, Nov. 16 and was told his ID was invalid to go into the private purchasing area. But when a customer opened the door to leave, Woodlake Chief of Police Mike Marquez says Vance bolted for the door and got inside.
Valley Pure staff told police he was acting erratic and “zoned out.” Things got confrontational when staff were verbally telling Vance to leave the area. According to Marquez he became even more agitated and began reaching over the counter to grab the sample containers he could reach. The confrontation became physical when staff skirted him out of the door and back into the lobby area. All the while 9-1-1 was called and patrol officers were able to respond.
“Staff at Valley Pure did what they were supposed to and tried to isolate the incident and remove the problem from the back area and skirt him towards the door when the subject was resisting. They told him to stop touching and taking things,” Marquez said.
Marquez says Vance decided to leave from the lobby on his own before police arrived. Vance got in his car and took off, leaving his girlfriend behind outside of the store. With several sample containers, Vance drove out of the city limits. Marquez said one of the officers attempted to stop him when he turned on his lights and sirens but Vance continued driving. For safety reasons the officer ended the chase.
The Tulare County Sheriff’s Office continued to follow Vance using their air plane. Vance parked at a residence near Campus and County Center in Visalia. With the help of the Visalia Police Department, Woodlake officers later arrested Vance at his home at 8:30 p.m.
Throughout last year and through 2018, when Woodlake considered issuing a conditional use permit license to Valley Pure the most onerous conditions were safety related. Per state law and local ordinance dispensaries must have a lobby/check-in area to ensure customers are over 21. In addition, there are specific ordinances pertaining to alarm systems, perimeter lighting, drive gates where applicable, exterior and interior camera systems approved by the Chief of Police, and a live streaming camera directly to the police station, among other security measures. Yet, Vance was still able to push his way into the main area.
“In order for prevention the staff did exactly what they were supposed to. This is an isolated incident and I don’t necessarily know if it could be prevented or if anyone could have done anything different. It would have been the same thing as someone walking into the liquor store acting in the same way,” Marquez said.
Lara said the City is pretty comfortable with how things worked out, since Vance could not take a significant amount of product because it is not reachable from the other side of the counter.
When it comes to prevention, Hardin says something like that is difficult to defend against.
“You can’t stop people from being crazy. It’s like safety issues with any other kind of store. And it was just a guy who was having a weird day you know,” Wes said.
Marquez says Vance was confirmed to suffer from some sort of mental illness but it was unclear what illness specifically. When questioned His girlfriend says she was shocked he was behaving this way, and that it was out of character for him.