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Police seek man who shot hikers on California trail

By Jennifer Chaussee

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Investigators said Thursday they were following new leads in the robbery and shooting of two hikers at a popular Northern California trailhead that left a 69-year-old Massachusetts man dead and his 76-year-old friend in critical condition.

The two friends were hiking along the picturesque Iron Canyon Trail in the small city of Red Bluff around noon on Friday when a middle-aged white man pointed a gun at them and demanded their cash and other belongings, the Tehama County Sheriff's Department said.

After collecting the items, the man shot both hikers and fled, investigators said. They were found by another hiker about three hours later.

One of the men, Francis Patrick Gregory, died from gunshot wounds before the police arrived. He was visiting from Massachusetts, where he owned a computer store in Martha's Vineyard.

His friend, whose name has not been released due to safety concerns, lived about an hour from the trailhead and was in critical condition on Thursday.

Sheriff's department spokeswoman Lieutenant Yvette Borden said investigators were stymied until they released a sketch of the suspected shooter on Wednesday, and tips started pouring in.

The sketch showed a man wearing a baseball cap over short, dark hair with a mustache and a beard. He wore dark denim pants and a dark t-shirt over his thin, six-foot-tall frame, and detectives estimated that he is about 35-40 years old.

Community members have responded to the sketch by sending in a flood of new leads, Borden said.

"We've received everything from 'He's everyone I've seen on the sidewalk,' to more substantial leads," she said.

According to detectives, the crime appears to be random and opportunistic. Borden noted that it was the first time a violent crime such as this has occurred in the area, where the usual pedestrian traffic comes from outdoor enthusiasts who are attracted to the fairly strenuous, rocky terrain.

(Editing by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Ken Wills)

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