Calif. cop hospitalized after hammer attack

The suspect was arrested on suspicion of attempted robbery and attempted homicide on a peace officer

By Lyndsay Winkley and Alex Riggins
The San Diego Union-Tribune

EL CAJON, Calif. - An El Cajon police officer was briefly hospitalized Wednesday after being struck in the head with a hammer by a man suspected of trying to rob an armored vehicle and smashing up a fast food restaurant, police said.

The incident happened near the Jack in the Box on Main Street near El Cajon Boulevard about 11:20 a.m., El Cajon police Lt. Royal Bates said. It ended with the arrest of 30-year-old Robert Dille on suspicion of attempted robbery and attempted homicide on a peace officer.

According to investigators, Dille was armed with a framing hammer — a standard type hammer with a blunt end and a claw end — when he initially demanded cash from a security officer from an armored vehicle, Bates said. The armored vehicle’s security guards were making either a pick-up or delivery at the fast food restaurant, and the driver triggered a robbery panic alarm.

A short time later, El Cajon police received several 911 calls regarding a man brandishing a weapon inside the Jack in the Box, Bates said. While those callers were speaking with dispatchers, the man allegedly started breaking windows in the restaurant, then fled south on nearby Van Houten Avenue with several witnesses tailing him.

A handful of plain clothes El Cajon police officers were already in the area and began running after the suspect, Bates said. The officers were wearing bullet-proof vests and ECPD insignia, but not full uniforms, and identified themselves as officers, Bates said.

“One of the officers attempted to use a Taser to subdue the suspect, but it was ineffective, we believe because one of the barbs struck the backpack the suspect was wearing,” Bates said. “At that point, officers with the assistance of several civilians tried to take the man into custody.”

During the ensuing struggle, Dille struck one of the cops in the head with the hammer, Bates said. The officer, a 19-year department veteran, suffered a head wound and was taken by medics to a hospital, where he was treated and released Wednesday afternoon.

Dille’s female companion, who was armed with an ax, was also taken into custody, Bates said. Investigators were questioning her Wednesday afternoon trying to determine if she was involved in the incident in any way.

Bates thanked the citizens who he said risked their lives to help officers subdue and arrest the suspect, but he warned bystanders from taking such actions in the future.

“We appreciate them,” Bates said. “But we recommend that others don’t do that in the future.”

Instead, he said the best way to help is to be observant and give good, clear statements to police. He also asked witnesses to Wednesday’s incident in and around Jack in the Box to call El Cajon police at (619) 579-3311.

©2018 The San Diego Union-Tribune

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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