A predawn manhunt Friday for a burglary suspect in a Fair Oaks neighborhood ended when two Sacramento County sheriff’s deputies fatally shot a 41-year-old man, later identified by the coroner and a relative as Jesse Attaway.
The burglary suspect fled through several neighborhoods bordering Madison and Hazel avenues, a busy thoroughfare cutting through the residential area, authorities said.
Sheriff’s Department spokesman Sgt. Tony Turnbull said a man matching the suspect’s description was shot by two deputies on Mohawk Way near Piedra Way, about a half-mile from where deputies were first called, at about 5 a.m., to the home burglaries on Tucson Circle.
Turnbull said the man ignored several commands by deputies to show them his hands after they found him. The two deputies shot him in fear for their safety, Turnbull said.
“They went to contact the subject and put him at gunpoint, asked him repeated times to show his hands,” Turnbull said. “At one point, the suspect turned around and pointed something at the officers. The officers then discharged their firearms, striking the suspect.”
Attaway’s grandmother, Barbara Attaway, said her family was in shock at what had happened.
“Jesse was not a thief. I don’t understand,” she said.
Barbara Attaway, 84, said her grandson worked in construction and was the father of two girls, 16 and 18. She described Jesse Attaway as stable and said he and his father visited her Citrus Heights home the night before he died.
The family is still trying to contact the Sheriff’s Department to get detailed information, she said.
“I don’t understand why the police had to shoot him seven times,” she said.
Asked where Jesse was living, his grandmother said she didn’t know.
“He had a lot of girlfriends and friends,” she said. “I don’t know what girl he was living with.”
On Friday, neighborhood resident Jim Cortvriendt, 92, said he had heard eight to nine shots at close range. The shooting happened just in front of his driveway.
Two other witnesses say they heard more than a dozen shots.
“There were at least 12 shots,” said Jennifer Ryden, 51, Cortvriendt’s neighbor. Ryden added that it was dark out and difficult to see on the residential street that has no lights. “It was pitch black,” she said.
Resident Lisa Okumura, who also heard 12 to 15 shots, said that sheriff’s deputies were lined up “bumper to bumper” along Prieta Way before the shooting.
Turnbull told reporters early Friday that no weapon had been found at the scene of the shooting and that he did not know what the responding deputies saw in the man’s hand.
The Sheriff’s Department described the suspect as a white male but would not disclose the race of the deputies who shot him. Turnbull said in an email that neither “the officer’s race nor the suspect’s race has (anything) to do with the facts of the event.”
The race of suspects killed at the hands of officers has become a crucial detail in recent years as activists have accused law enforcement agencies of disproportionately killing black men without justification.
Neighbors in the area described being woken by the sound of sirens and lights as deputies flooded the surrounding neighborhoods, knocking on doors and looking at people’s yards as they searched for the suspect.
“They were checking the whole neighborhood,” said Marsha Smith, a longtime resident of Tucson Circle. She said a sheriff's deputy knocked on her door, asking if she had seen anyone in her yard.
Dispatchers received an initial call just before 5 a.m. from a woman who lived in a home on Tucson Way who said her husband had made contact with an intruder in a hallway inside the home and that the husband had forced the suspect out of their house, according to a department news release.
Dispatchers then began receiving calls that a person, who matched the suspect description from the initial report, was at a second home next door. The resident of that home held the door shut to prevent the stranger from entering, Turnbull said.
The man reportedly fled the scene on foot, jumping fences and cutting through yards as deputies arrived on Tucson Circle, he said.
After failing to gain entry to the second house, the suspect jumped a rear fence into a backyard on the adjacent Vincent Avenue, according to resident Andrew Kultti, 32.
Kultti said police found a footprint in his backyard and he was waiting for forensics to examine it.
By Friday afternoon, the Sheriff’s Department continued to investigate the scene of the shooting as well as the homes on Tucson Circle. Coroner’s Office workers were seen leaving the scene of the shooting about 3:30 p.m. All that remained was bloody gauze in the gutter of Mohawk Way.
Turnbull said one of the deputies who fired has served 11 years with the Sheriff’s Department, while the other has been on the force two years. The pair will be placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation into the shooting.
The Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau and Professional Standards Division will conduct the investigation, a standard practice for the department. Additionally, the county’s District Attorney’s Office and the Inspector General will also conduct their own independent reviews of the shooting once the investigation is completed, according to a department news release.
Law enforcement agencies across the nation have drawn scrutiny this year for killing suspects who did not have guns. In Sacramento, protesters demanded urgent reforms to the Police Department after surveillance video showed two officers kill a mentally ill man on a North Sacramento street.
In that instance, Joseph Mann was acting erratically and waving a knife, according to residents. Mann was fleeing officers before stopping to gesture at them, at which point he was shot 14 times. Mann’s family said officers escalated the situation and should have used nonlethal ways to control Mann. Police Chief Sam Somers Jr. said officers were told by dispatchers that Mann was armed with a gun and knife. Only a knife was found.