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Santa Barbara sees an uptick in officer-involved shootings

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Santa Barbara County is experiencing a bizarre rash of officer-involved shootings this year. The most recent came Thursday evening, after an hour-long chase that started and ended in Santa Maria, circling through several rural towns along the way. 

When the chase ended, the suspect, whose name hasn't been released, allegedly got out of his car carrying what turned out to be a "replica handgun." Officers opened fire, killing the man.

Thursday's officer-involved shooting is Santa Barbara's seventh of the year—a highly unusual number for the relatively serene coastal county of about 420,000 people.

Sgt. Mark Williams of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department, which investigates officer-involved shootings in the county, said his agency usually sees one "every three years or so." He called the number of shootings this year "highly unusual," adding there was an additional shooting near the end of 2011.

The reason for the uptick? 

"We don't know," he said. "Looking at the specific details of each incident, they're all very different, so we really don't see how they correlate."

Williams said the department is looking into ways it can analyze the rash of incidents.

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