A Santa Cruz college student who thought an armed robber hit her in the head with a rifle Monday actually had been shot, a police spokesman said today.
Police are on the hunt for the man, who could be anywhere in the county, if not farther away by now.
The woman, a 21-year-old student at the University of California at Santa Cruz, was at a bus stop on Natural Bridges Drive in Santa Cruz at about 7:30 p.m. when a man approached her from a wooded area, Deputy Police Chief Steve Clark said.
The man, wearing a bandana over his face, pointed what the woman thought was a rifle at her and demanded she empty her pockets and hand over what she had, Clark said.
She told the suspect "I don't have anything," and the armed man came up behind her and inflicted what she thought was a blow to her head from the rifle, Clark said.
The woman pressed a button on a pole that activated a light at the bus stop then ran down Natural Bridges Drive and waved to get a motorist to pull over, Clark said.
As she ran she looked back and saw the suspect pick up her backpack, where she kept her wallet and laptop, Clark said.
The driver of the car called 911, Clark said.
The woman told police officers what happened while medical personnel examined her head wound, Clark said.
"The paramedics thought she just sustained a cut," Clark said.
But when they took her to Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, they looked at the x-rays and found a small-caliber bullet, a .22 or a .32, lodged in her skull, Clark said.
The bullet, which was on the outer layer of her skull, was removed by neurosurgeons and she is expected to make a full recovery, Clark said.
"Had that been a higher caliber bullet, we'd have a different story," Clark said.
Officers searched the area using metal detectors and police dogs Monday night and resumed the search Tuesday, but the suspect is still at large.
Detectives interviewed the victim Tuesday afternoon to prepare a composite sketch, or as best as could be made since the suspect had a bandana on his face, Clark said.
The woman was able to describe the man as white or light skinned, wearing jeans, a gray hoodie and a red bandana in a triangle covering his face with a gruff-sounding voice and several days of beard growth.
Anyone with information about this incident is encouraged to call the Santa Cruz Police Department investigations unit at 831-420-5820.
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