Law enforcement in Northern California is engaged in one of the largest search-and-rescue missions in state history, picking through the charred remnants of the Camp Fire that tore through the region starting last week. At least 63 people have been reported dead, and another 631 are missing, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
But in the middle of the logistical challenges involved with the cleanup and evacuation, on Thursday, deputies were involved in a car chase and the fatal shooting of a felon wanted for skipping parole, Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey said. The man was unarmed, the Redding Record Searchlight reported. The episode unfolded within the evacuation zone in Butte County, Calif., one of the region’s hit hardest by the conflagration.
Authorities have yet to release the name of the 48-year-old man who was killed. However, Ramsey detailed the encounter to reporters Thursday evening.
“We had an officer-involved shooting,” he solemnly said at the start of his comments.
The incident began around 11 a.m. on Thursday in the parking lot of the Pines Yankee Hill Hardware store, a mom-and-pop outlet off Highway 70 pressed against a nearby hillside. A Butte County Sheriff deputy was patrolling the area when a person reported that a car had been parked in the store’s lot for the past three days. The deputy arrived and noticed a sedan jammed with living supplies in the lot. A man appeared to be sleeping in the driver’s seat.
“It appeared he was living in his car,” Ramsey said.
When the deputy ran the car’s information, the system spat back out some troubling details.
“The license plate came back to a subject that was well known to the sheriff’s office as an armed and dangerous wanted parolee,” Ramsey said. “He was also wanted in a double homicide that occurred in December 2014.”
The man was from Berry Creek, Calif., Ramsey said. In 2014, police had executed a search warrant on his property and discovered a shotgun, handgun and pipe bomb on the premises. That same week, he was arrested at a local store, Ramsey said. The man was heavily armed: Under a heavy jacket, he had an AK-47 assault rifle, a pistol, handgun, revolver, dagger and brass knuckles.
The man was convicted of possession of a destructive device and possession of methamphetamine, Ramsey said. In 2016, he was sentenced to seven years in prison. He was paroled in May 2018 but disappeared two months later. “He went missing from his parole. He was then known as a parolee at large and has been sought since,” Ramsey said.
On Thursday morning, considering the man’s history of being armed, the deputy radioed for backup. Law enforcement from several agencies responded to the parking lot. Together, they surrounded the sedan.
A deputy knocked on the window. The man awoke, jammed his hand into his right pocket, “as if he was reaching for a weapon,” Ramsey said. The deputies pulled their weapons and stepped back.
“You guys should have let me alone,” the man yelled, according to Ramsey. “I’m not going back.”
The driver then snapped on his ignition and raced out of the parking lot, Ramsey said. Law enforcement pursued. The car chase shot south on Highway 70 at 90 mph. Deputies radioed ahead, and spike strips were laid down on the roadside. The sedan’s tires flattened on impact, but the car continued to grind down the highway for another half-mile, Ramsey said.
“When it stopped, the officers came,” he said. “They yelled at the man to get out of the car. He at first refused, then got out.”
The man emerged from his car with his right hand still in his pocket. After he refused to pull out the hand, a deputy from the Sutter County Sheriff’s office released a police K-9 named Bandit, Ramsey said.
“Bandit was doing his job in attempting to stop the man,” Ramsey said. The man then pulled out a metallic object and pointed it at the law enforcement members, Ramsey said.
Six officers opened fire — two with handguns, four with rifles. The hail of bullets hit the man and Bandit, Ramsey said.
Bandit continued to try to bring the man down, and a pit bull from the subject’s car came out and attacked Bandit,” the district attorney added. A seventh deputy shot the pit bull. “[Bandit] was pronounced dead ... as was the subject, as was the pit bull,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey’s office is handling the investigation into the shooting. According to the Redding Record Searchlight, deputies from Butte and Shasta counties were involved in the gunfire, as well as a Fish and Wildlife warden.
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