Several items, including cash, were stolen from the home of a distinguished school board member and former police officer during a robbery in Perris Monday evening.
Four men contacted Michael Vargas, a board member of the Val Verde Unified School District, on his front porch shortly after 9:30 p.m. at his home in the 3600 block of Brook Street.
They allegedly demanded money from him and brandished a firearm, Deputy Albert Martinez said, with the Riverside County Sheriff's Department. The men forced their way into Vargas' home and tied him up, he added.
As they ransacked the home, they were startled by other family members. The four men then fled the residence and carjacked a nearby motorist. The motorist said the suspects drove north toward Lake Perris at a high rate of speed, Martinez said.
NBC4 spoke with Vargas Tuesday morning.
"I was robbed and my family in our home, and that's about all I'm going to be able to say for now," he said.
The robbery turned carjacking sparked a manhunt through the night in the usually quiet community.
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Deputies from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department used a helicopter to fly overhead and search for the men. They shouted down to residents with a loudspeaker and warned them to stay in their homes.
Many of Vargas' neighbors were in disbelief.
"It was a bit of an eye opener," a neighbor, who asked to not be identified, said.
She added, her family chose to live in Perris, in the same neighborhood Vargas' family was living in because it was "one of the best."
Luz Mata, also a neighbor, is a parent with a student in Val Verde Unified School District.
"It's surprising since we know he's a good member from the district, so you're just... you know... in shock," she said.
Vargas spent more than 33 years working for the Los Angeles Unified School District Police Department prior to joining VVUSD, according to his Facebook Page. He didn't believe his background was cause for the robbers to target him.
"Bottom line you have to be cautious," Vargas said. "You have to be alert at what's going on at all times. Day or night."
The suspects were described as four black males between 18 and 25-years-old, wearing dark-hooded sweatshirts. "One of the suspects was in possession of a black semiautomatic handgun used in the commission of the crime," Martinez said.
The robbery remains under investigation. No further details were available.
Michael Larkin contributed to this report.