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Rugged California terrain strains weeklong search for gunman

LOS ANGELES (AP) - A weeklong search for a gunman tied to a kidnapping, a killing and the wounding of two California sheriff's deputies has run up against difficult high-desert terrain that is tough to scan and even harder to traverse.

All the attacks likely were committed by one dangerous man on foot who has been breaking into unoccupied homes and taking firearms, Kern County sheriff's spokesman Ray Pruitt said.

The crimes began on July 28 when three young men were held hostage at gunpoint in a cabin before escaping. Two days later, a man was found dead in a cabin about 10 miles away, and on Saturday, two SWAT team members were wounded as they searched a mobile home.

Dozens of deputies and helicopters are combing sparsely populated mining territory 30 miles east of Bakersfield in heat at times surpassing 100 degrees. Peaks in the area reach 7,000 feet, with the vast expanse of the Mojave Desert to the east and the San Joaquin Valley to the west.

Pruitt called the search "very challenging."

"It's rugged terrain," he said, "high desert, mountainous, a lot of the area is open, some of the area has shrubbery, bushes, tree lines, there are culverts ... it's a large area to cover, there are a lot of places to hide."

Pruitt said what signs of civilization there were in the remote area didn't necessarily help.

"The area is dotted with outbuildings, with unoccupied homes, unoccupied mobile homes and trailers," he said.

Authorities described the fugitive as a white man in his early 30s, 5 feet 8 inches tall and 160 pounds, with long brown hair, blue eyes and wearing a brown corduroy hat and green bandanna.

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