Weekly newspaper of Three Rivers, California, and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks

Disturbance at cannabis store leads to stand-off

John Elliott


Opponents of legalizing cannabis have maintained that having a retail outlet that supplies cannabis would attract a criminal element. But in the first eight months that Valley Pure cannabis dispensary has been operating in Woodlake, the first outlet in Tulare County to offer both medical and recreational cannabis, there hasn’t been a hint of a serious problem. 
That was until Friday, Nov. 16, when Christopher Vance, 27, of Visalia showed up at 4 p.m. and asked for entry to the store’s inner showroom. The procedure at the cash-based business is that customers must show a valid identification and be logged into the store’s database to gain access to the area where products are displayed and purchased.
The Visalia man stated he did not have his identification and stood aside while another customer entered the lobby, produced identification, and was granted access. When asked to leave, Vance refused. 
Woodlake police officers responded to reports that there was a subject at Valley Pure who refused to leave. Vance’s girlfriend reportedly told officers at the scene that he had been behaving erratically, so officers approached with caution.
When officers arrived, they spotted Vance leaving the dispensary, according to police reports. Officers attempted a traffic stop but Vance sped off, and a high-speed chase ensued. Speeds in the chase that headed toward Visalia reportedly topped 100 mph. 
In the interest of public safety, the chase was scaled back as officers began following the suspect from a distance. As soon as Vance arrived home, he barricaded himself inside his unit at the Outrigger Apartments at the corner of Campus and County Center in west Visalia. 
Visalia SWAT officers were called in while nearby apartments and homes were evacuated. After a tense standoff that lasted 90 minutes, police lobbed a chemical agent into the apartment and the suspect surrendered.
Vance was arrested and taken into custody. He faces charges of assault on a peace officer and possibly attempted theft charges. The suspect had no police contact prior to last Friday’s incident. 
According to a reported statement by Woodlake’s chief of police, Mike Marquez, no weapons were found on the suspect nor were any shots fired. Marquez later said this was first disturbance of its kind since Valley Pure had opened in March at its Valencia Blvd. location in downtown Woodlake.