SANTA CRUZ -- Two masked men, one of them armed with a rifle, the other with a knife, robbed a busy Santa Cruz natural foods store Wednesday night.
Santa Cruz police Sgt. Christian LeMoss said the Food Bin was "crowded" when the two men stormed into the store at 1130 Mission St.
"They ordered everyone to the ground and robbed the store of cash," Lt. Warren Barry said.
Both men, wearing bandanas and hoodies, ordered the customers to the ground. One of the customers, a woman, suffered minor injuries when she looked up to catch a glimpse of the assailants and the gunman kicked her in the face. She was treated at the scene and released.
The men fled with an unknown amount of cash. Barry said they do not know if the suspects, one Latino, one white, left in a vehicle or on foot.
When asked if he thought there was a connection between Wednesday's robbery and assault and Monday's robbery and attempted murder of a UC Santa Cruz student, Barry said, "We don't know."
Given the bandanas, he said they are obviously pursuing the possibility, but cautioned that bandanas are often utilized by criminals to conceal their identity.
"We are concerned with the recent robberies that have occurred at this time," Barry said.
He urged residents who see anything suspicious to call 911.
He described the suspect with the knife as a thin white male, possibly in his early 20s, about 5 feet 6 inches to 5 feet 10 inches tall, wearing a dark colored hoodie pulled over his head and a red or dark colored bandana.
The second suspect, who carried a shotgun, was described as a heavy-set Latino with a dark hoodie, dark pants, in his early 20s and about 5 feet 10 inches tall.
Police swarmed the area searching for the suspect with the help of a K-9 unit. They had not been found by late Wednesday night.
The suspect in Monday's shooting -- wanted for attempted murder and robbery -- was described as light-skinned and about 5 feet 7 inches with a medium build. He wore jeans and a gray hooded sweatshirt and drove a white PT Cruiser.
The female UC Santa Cruz student who was shot in the head Monday was released from a Santa Cruz hospital Wednesday and is expected to make a full recovery, according to Santa Cruz Deputy Police Chief Steve Clark.
Clark said tips precipitated some "pretty solid" leads. Police released a composite sketch of the man Tuesday night.
"Our detectives have been working on this basically around the clock," Clark said.
About 7:30 p.m. Monday, the 21-year-old student was sitting at a bus stop near Natural Bridges Drive and Delaware Avenue. She saw a white Chrysler PT Cruiser pass her twice and park.
Then she heard rustling from a wooded area behind her. A man demanded her belongings in a gruff voice and threatened to shoot her if she ran.
She held still and told him she had nothing. He shot her in the back of the head.
She hit a button to turn on a bus stop light designed to alert bus drivers to stop and ran north on Natural Bridges Drive. She turned back to see the man swipe her backpack and flee.
The woman didn't realize she had been shot at first, just struck with the gun -- but a surgeon removed a bullet from her head Monday night.
Clark said police have added patrols to more remote areas such as Natural Bridges Drive, especially at night. Police and university officials have cautioned people be alert to their surroundings.
"To say that we have the ability to patrol all the remote areas on an extra basis would be misleading," Clark said.
Police noted that in 2011 a string of robberies targeted lone victims in Santa Cruz. Police arrested several suspects on unrelated charges, but authorities could not "pin them down" on the robberies, Clark said.
The robberies stopped when some of them went to jail. Some of those suspects are still in jail, police said.
Clark called Monday's robbery a crime of opportunity.
"We believe the suspect scouted the victim. There's nothing to indicate that he was specifically targeting her," Clark said.
Santa Cruz police ask anyone with information to call investigations at 831-420-5820, the anonymous tip line at 831-420-5995 or leave a tip at www.santacruzpolice.com or by the mobile application at http://m.santacruzpolice.com.
Follow Sentinel reporter Stephen Baxter on Twitter at Twitter.com/sbaxter_sc