An El Dorado County sheriff’s deputy responding to reports of marijuana plants being stolen was shot and killed early Wednesday morning while responding to a call in a rural community southeast of Placerville.
The El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office identified the fallen officer as Deputy Brian Ishmael, 37. He was fatally shot while responding to a “possible 488,” or petty theft call, at Sand Ridge Drive and Mt. Aukum Road in the town of Somerset, a rural community about 10 miles southeast of Placerville, according to police radio traffic obtained through Broadcastify.
A reporting party told the dispatcher he saw people in the area of a marijuana grow “taking plants,” according to radio traffic.
A “ride-along” passenger, who was an off-duty deputy from the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office, was with Ishmael and was also shot and injured as he exchanged fire with the suspects.
“The deputy did his best to assist Brian and returned fire,” El Dorado County Sheriff John D’Agostini said.
The deputy was treated at a hospital and released before 10 a.m., the sheriff’s office said.
The San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office did not name the deputy, but said he is 28 and had been with the office for two years.
“Our deputy took fire along with Deputy Brian Ishmael at the time of the incident,” the office said in a statement. “He was transported to a local hospital by California Highway Patrol Officer Armando Montoya.
“We are grateful for his quick thinking and reaction in seeking medical attention for our deputy.”
Two men are in custody – one of whom was shot and taken to the hospital – and the scene is “still active” with a large law enforcement presence, according to D’Agostini.
“At this point, we don’t know if there are any outstanding suspects,” the sheriff said, but the scene was remaining cordoned off “in an abundance of caution.”
“I stand here with the worst news you can convey,” D’Agostini said in a news conference Wednesday morning.
911 call reports stolen marijuana
According to police radio traffic, the reporting party called 911 at 12:28 a.m. to report people in his marijuana grow that appeared to be “taking plants,” according to police radio. At 12:31 a.m. the man tells the dispatcher he believes the suspects are parked at a neighbor’s residence.
Ishmael arrived at the residence shortly before 1 a.m. At 1:06 a.m. the deputy contacts the dispatcher saying, “There is only one subject seen, and then he came back,” in a low, breathless voice “I believe we have one shooter. Lost contact with my ride-along.”
By this time, additional deputies are already en route to the scene.
Two minutes later, a rapid succession of gunfire can be heard over the radio, and the deputy tells the dispatcher, “shooter is moving toward the right, toward the west.”
At 1:10 a.m. fire personnel are dispatched to the scene to provide medical aid.
Then, at 1:15 a.m., a different man activates a radio microphone, and in a whisper, he says “I’m (unintelligible) on my own...Officer is hit, down, and we can’t get to him ...”
“He’s down in a hole and ... we can’t pull him out, we can’t get him out,” he says a few minutes later.
Officers from the California Highway Patrol, Placerville Police Department and the Amador County Sheriff’s Office responded to the scene to provide assistance.
Robert Locke, who lives directly across Sand Ridge Road from the site of the shooting, said the sound of gunfire woke him up at about 1 a.m.
“The first thing was six shots, and then a pause and then two shots and then a pause,” Locke said. “Then about 10 shots and then stone silence.”
Within minutes, Locke said, he could hear sirens from law enforcement coming to assist Ishmael.
Locke, who does commercial refrigeration work, said he has lived at the home since 1995 and knew Ishmael through his daughter, who hung out with the deputy during their school years.
“It’s a terrible thing,” he said. “He was very close to my daughter.
“The guy was just a jewel, just a jewel of a person and having to get killed over pot plants is insane, just ridiculous.”
The Sand Ridge neighborhood was still off limits to non-residents by mid-afternoon Wednesday, and Locke said he had stayed home from work to make certain his wife was safe.
“I work for myself and I canceled work because I could not leave my wife here along with these guys running around,” he said.
Terror on Sand Ridge Road
Another neighbor, Leslie Rich, said she was awakened by her dog growling at about 1:30 p.m. and that her husband went on Facebook and saw there had been a shooting reported.
“We got into our little bedroom and went around and locked all the windows,” she said. “By the time we looked out the window there was nothing but sheriff’s cars and that’s when he said an officer was shot.
“The helicopter was going and they had planes and it was just terrifying because it was black out. It’s so close to home. It’s literally, what in the heck, right across the street.”
Rich added that she had met Ishmael in the past.
“The officer who was killed, my heart breaks for him,” she said. “I met him a couple times, actually, and he was a really nice guy.”
Rich said she has had sheriff’s personnel respond to her house several times in her five years living on Sand Ridge Road due to personal issues involving a family member who suffers from a medical condition. Ishmael had personally responded to her house on multiple occasions, as well as other deputies with the crisis intervention unit.
“He was always really respectful,” she said. “Just calm, kind.
“I literally cried when I heard that he died. It’s like, ‘What in the world is going on around here?’”
Rich said neighbors have told her stories of seeing drug deals happen on the nearby stretch of Sand Ridge Road. She said the level of crime near her home has gotten “absolutely ridiculous.”
Newsom honors Deputy Ishmael
Ishmael was a four-year veteran with the sheriff’s office who previously served two years with the Placerville Police Department, according to the sheriff.
“He never had a bad day,” the sheriff said. “He was a loving father and husband and he leaves behind his wife and three children.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statement of condolence and ordered flags at state buildings lowered to half-staff.
“Jennifer and I were terribly saddened to learn that Deputy Ishmael was shot and killed this morning while courageously serving and protecting the people of El Dorado County,” Newsom said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones, friends, and colleagues during this painful time.”
Public records show Ismael, 37, has been married since April 2013 and recently purchased a Garden Valley home. Bee archives show Ishmael attended Ponderosa High School and was honored in 2000 by the El Dorado Union High School District for outstanding effort and achievement in trades and industry.
Ishmael appeared in the 30-minute reality show, “Sheriffs: El Dorado County.” One episode, called “Punks with Guns Making Nightmares That Are Real,” shows Ishmael and other deputies “hunt down and encounter four armed men on the run who had just broken into several homes and assaulted and robbed citizens at gunpoint,” according to a listing of the episode.
The shooting Wednesday comes one day before the fifth anniversary of the slayings of Sacramento sheriff’s Deputy Danny Oliver and Placer sheriff’s Detective Mike Davis and sent shock waves through both of those departments Wednesday.
“There’s nothing more devastating to a department than a death inside your community,” Sacramento Sheriff Scott Jones said, adding that he has reached out to El Dorado County Sheriff John D’Agostini to offer help, including a detail to escort Ishmael’s body from the hospital to the coroner’s office.
A large procession of law enforcement and fire department vehicles was headed down Highway 50 toward the Sacramento County coroner’s office at 8 a.m.
“All the while these deputies up there just have to go out and still answer calls for service like nothing happened,” Jones added. “I’ve reached out to Sheriff D’Agostini to offer my support and help with whatever resources he might need, moral support from one sheriff to another. I’ve talked to my (communications) center sergeant and given them the green light for whatever resources they need.”
Placer Sheriff Devon Bell made the same offer, saying the shooting “is particularly sensitive for us in that (Thursday) is the fifth anniversary of the passing of Mike Davis and Danny Oliver.”
“We have people assisting them,” Bell said.
Oliver and Davis were slain in a daylong rampage on Oct. 24, 2014, by Luis Bracamontes, a Mexican citizen on a methamphetamine-fueled binge who was in the country illegally.
Bracamontes was later convicted and sentenced to death in the slayings and, ironically, had been held in the El Dorado County Jail while he faced trial in Sacramento.
Jones and Bell both said they would offer to hold any suspects in the Ishmael slaying in their own jails if asked.
“It’s hard on staff when you have somebody who’s killed one of your teammates to have them work in the jail,” Bell added.