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Sacramento deputy killed in hotel shootout died on anniversary of parents’ death

Sheriff Scott Jones describes fatal shooting of Deputy Robert French

Sheriff Scott Jones goes over the details of the fatal shooting of Deputy Robert French at the Ramada Inn last week, during a press conference on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017.
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Sheriff Scott Jones goes over the details of the fatal shooting of Deputy Robert French at the Ramada Inn last week, during a press conference on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017.

The Sacramento County sheriff’s deputy who was killed in a hotel shootout last week died exactly a decade after his parents perished in a plane crash in El Dorado County, his children said.

Robert French, 52, was shot during a gunbattle at the Ramada Inn hotel on Auburn Boulevard on Aug. 30. French was a 21-year veteran of the department and worked as a patrol officer for the North Division.

He was responding to reports of shots fired at the hotel when the Sheriff’s Department said he was fatally wounded by an armed, fleeing gunman. Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones would later say a bullet passed through French’s shoulder and hit his heart.

French kept firing at the suspect, identified as 32-year-old Thomas Daniel Littlecloud, even after he was hit, Jones said. Littlecloud later died as well.

Since French’s death, his family has been mourning in private.

“It’s been horrendous,” said Nicholas French, 30, one of the deputy’s sons. “Nobody wants to hear what we all had to hear.”

A public memorial for French is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday at the Adventure Christian Church in Roseville. Law enforcement officers will follow the service with a procession to the Bayside Church in Granite Bay.

Nicholas French, along with his older sister Kaylen Bynoe, 32, and their brother, Kosai French, 28, received news of their father’s death exactly 10 years after a fatal plane crash at the Cameron Airpark killed their grandparents on August 30, 2007.

Robert and Patricia French were on their way to a scuba diving trip in Ensenada, Mexico, when their six-seater plane crashed on takeoff. Aviation officials blamed the high heat and weight of the aircraft, Bynoe said.

“(My dad) called me and I knew there was something wrong because he was crying,” said Nicholas French, recalling his grandparents’ death.

The three siblings remembered their father as a devoted street cop, with an affinity for country music (his favorite singer was George Strait) and the Dallas Cowboys. He spent much of his time outdoors, enjoying hikes at Mount Shasta and skiing.

French grew up exploring the country, and different parts of the world, because his family always moved with their father during his career in the U.S. Air Force. French was born in Shreveport, La., and spent his early years there, but would live in Florida, Kentucky, North Dakota and the island of Guam during his life. His younger sister, Lori Mitchell, currently lives in Folsom.

He attended high school in Washington state, where he met his first wife, Christine Grace. Bynoe was a few days old during her mother’s graduation from high school, she said.

French, Grace and their daughter would move to the Sacramento area in 1986, following French’s father when he was relocated to the area for good. The couple had their second child, though they later split in 1992.

Bynoe said French raised her and her brother in a cream-colored house with a big yard near Watt Avenue and La Riviera Drive, just a few houses away from where their grandparents lived.

She and her older brother spent much of their time with their grandparents in the mid-1990s, after French decided to become a Sacramento County sheriff’s deputy, she said. “He wanted to serve and wanted to be there and help,” she said.

It was sometime after French earned his badge that he met his second wife, Kosai French’s mother. The two married within a year of meeting and moved their families in together, Bynoe said.

Kosai French was legally adopted by his stepfather. “We all grew up and blended together,” he said. “We had a great childhood.”

The couple would divorce after about 13 years, though their three children remain close. “We have each other’s back,” Bynoe said. “We are intertwined.”

Bynoe said they welcomed her father’s girlfriend, Kara Merino, and her two children, about four years ago. The four lived in El Dorado Hills.

“He just loved her so much,” Bynoe said. “He looked like a different person when he was with her.”

In addition to his children, French leaves behind two granddaughters, Evelyn and Marley, and a grandson named Dallas.

Nashelly Chavez: 916-321-1188, @nashellytweets

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