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  • Randy Pench / rpench@sacbee.com

    A SWAT team from the Sacramento Police Department assembles Wednesday near the former Galt home of a slaying suspect.

  • Randy Pench rpench@sacbee.com Police officers keep watch on a house in Galt where a shooting suspect was holed up. The man allegedly opened fire when a bank officer and animal control officer arrived to take over the suspect's foreclosed home, where he still had dogs and cats.

Animal control officer slain at door of foreclosed house

Published: Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1A
Last Modified: Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012 - 7:43 am

A Sacramento County animal control officer went to a Galt home Wednesday afternoon to tend to cats and dogs left behind by an evicted resident. The home was supposed to be empty.

But when the officer and a bank official approached, a shotgun blast exploded through the front door, killing the animal control officer and prompting a lengthy standoff with police from across the county.

By late Wednesday, authorities had not identified the slain officer. However they named the suspected shooter as 65-year-old Joseph Francis Corey, who, until Tuesday, lived at the First Street home where the shooting occurred. As of press time, he remained inside the home, refusing to surrender.

Public records indicate that Corey owned the home from 2006 until it was taken over by a bank in 2011. He remained there until he was evicted Tuesday.

What drove Corey to the violence alleged by authorities is not known. Public records and information from police, however, indicate the foreclosure was just one in a series of financial troubles the man suffered in recent years.

Sacramento County Sheriff's Sgt. Jason Ramos – speaking on behalf of at least five law enforcement agencies at the scene – said a deputy accompanied bank officials to the home Tuesday, as is standard practice during evictions.

Corey was cooperative, even as the locks were changed, Ramos said. Officials last saw him gathering up personal belongings outside.

When a bank official returned Wednesday, Ramos said, the animal control officer came along to tend to the animals – Corey had lamented he had nowhere to take them upon eviction.

They never even saw the shooter; the front door never opened. The blast hit the officer in the torso and grazed the bank official, who suffered a "superficial wound," Ramos said.

The bank official ran to the street and flagged down a nearby Galt police volunteer, who dragged the officer away from the house. Paramedics attempted to revive him, but could not. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The shooting drew a massive response: As many as 50 officers from at least four local law enforcement agencies and three SWAT teams responded to a Galt police call for mutual aid.

Believing the shooter to have retreated inside, police put up a perimeter around the house and began evacuating neighbors and a nearby preschool, a process that wasn't complete until almost 6 p.m.

Officers tried to clear almost 20 homes in the area, but found only about a half-dozen occupied, Ramos said. An evacuation center was opened at a nearby community hall.

Early in the evening, officers began using a megaphone, asking the suspect to answer their phone calls. Eventually, they had two brief conversations and confirmed that Corey was the suspect inside. Ramos said officers conveyed that Corey was "irritated" and "animated" about the situation

Officers then began efforts to force Corey out, including using "flash-bang" devices. But he did not respond.

The prolonged police activity and jarring news of the animal control officer's death rattled the quiet suburban neighborhood.

"It's really scary. We don't usually see anything like this," said Jena Maxwell, whose son was evacuated from the nearby preschool. "That is really sad."

Area resident Daniel Garcia expressed concern that an animal control officer – who does not carry a weapon – was sent to the house without proper backup.

Even more stunned were employees of the county's Department of Animal Care and Regulation, which responds to roughly 1,600 calls a month on almost 1,000 square miles of county land.

In Sacramento County, animal control officers are not peace officers and are not armed. They respond to calls ranging from cruelty and abuse to dog bites to animals in distress.

The department's director, David Dickinson, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. One of his officers said she and her colleagues were in shock, but she was not ready to be interviewed.

Efforts by The Bee to reach Corey's relatives also were not successful.

According to public records, Corey filed for bankruptcy protection in 2005 – listing less than $4,000 in assets, a fraction of his $26,000 in liabilities – and again earlier this year.

The bankruptcy filings indicate Corey had few possessions and little income, coming only from disability payments of less than $2,000 a month. Among the possessions he listed in 2005 were a Ruger .22-caliber rifle and six Catahoulas, a breed of dog.

The First Street home previously was owned by a family trust before moving to one of Corey's relatives. Corey took ownership in 2006.

CitiBank foreclosed on the home last year, records indicate. Public records also show Corey had a contracting license in California, though it has expired. That license was associated with the business Corey Renovations Unlimited, which had the same address as Corey.

He has no criminal history in Sacramento County, according to Superior Court records available online.

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