Plumas County deputy kills hospital patient after violent struggle

A Plumas County sheriff’s deputy shot and killed a patient at Eastern Plumas District Hospital in a violent confrontation that moved from the acute-care section into the hospital lobby, officials said Monday.

“It was an all-out, life-and-death struggle that resulted in the officer resorting to deadly force,” said Plumas County Sheriff Greg Hagwood.

The patient, a 53-year-old man, became disruptive early Sunday – hours after checking in with an unspecified medical complaint – and barricaded himself in a room adjacent to the nurses’ station, Hagwood said.

Hagwood said the patient then began making preparations for “an assault,” fashioning upper-body protection out of a mattress pad and lower-body protection with leg braces and rubber boots.

The deputy who responded at 1 a.m. engaged in a 10-minute struggle with the patient, who attempted to take his Taser, baton and firearm. At one point, the patient gained enough control of the gun to discharge a round that nearly struck the deputy, Hagwood said.

When the officer regained control of his gun, the patient attempted to attack him with his baton.

The officer shot multiple times, killing the patient at the doorway of the hospital, Hagwood said.

“It was a lengthy and incredibly violent encounter. It is my firm belief that had the officer not taken the action he took, there would have been multiple other victims,” he said.

Hagwood, who has not released the name of the victim pending notification of his family, described him as a six-foot, 250-pound Portola resident who has had previous encounters with law enforcement.

The deputy involved, whose name is also being withheld, is “one of the biggest, strongest and best-trained law enforcement officers in Northern California,” Hagwood said.

He has been placed on administrative leave during the investigation, which is being conducted by the state Department of Justice in conjunction with Plumas County District Attorney David Hollister.

Hagwood has invited a third investigation by the Butte County Sheriff’s Department to demonstrate “that we are conducting our business in the most transparent, honest way possible,” he said.

Hospital staff on duty in the acute-care section when the altercation began included a registered nurse and nursing assistant. Another patient also was there.

“Obviously this was very traumatic to the staff,” said Tom Hayes, hospital administrator, who called the deputy’s assistance “invaluable.”

The shooting is the second officer-involved fatality in Plumas County in two years. A sheriff’s deputy in June 2012 shot and killed a man threatening to go on a “murder spree” at Evergreen Trailer Park near Quincy.