Suspect caught after deputy is shot at the light rail station on Watt Avenue
The man accused of shooting a Sacramento sheriff’s deputy in the face with the officer’s gun at a North Highlands light-rail station has an extensive criminal record, including involvement in a double homicide in the Bay Area a decade ago.
Law enforcement search teams arrested Nicory Marquis Spann, 27, on Tuesday night after finding him in a fetal position in a motel hallway a few blocks from the Interstate 80 and Watt Avenue station three hours after the scuffle and shooting.
Sacramento County sheriff’s deputy Alex Ladwig, a four-year veteran of the department currently on assignment with SacRT, was reported in stable condition Wednesday afternoon after surgery for “major structural facial injuries,” according to a department statement.
Court records show Spann, a San Jose native, was charged nearly a decade ago along with others on two counts of murder in the robbery and the killing of a brother and sister in their Mountain View home. The murder charges against him were dropped, and Spann pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact and receiving stolen property. He was sentenced to 16 months of incarceration, said Benjamin Rada, a spokesman for Santa Clara Superior Court.
Ladwig was working overtime at the light rail station Tuesday evening when he encountered Spann on the platform where riders wait for trains. Lisa Hinz, chief of police for SacRT, said Ladwig likely approached Spann to check to see if he had a train ticket.
SacRT has made a major effort over the past year to discourage non-ticket holders from hanging around at light rail stations as part of a larger effort to improve the image, cleanliness and safety of light rail. SacRT employs 28 law enforcement officers on assignment from the county Sheriff’s Department and city Police Department, and has recently doubled the number of uniformed fare checkers, to 63.
“Alex was doing what he was supposed to be doing,” said Hinz. “He was there to make contact with subjects, to make sure they had their fare.”
Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Tony Turnbull, in a written statement, called Ladwig a hardworking team player who has “a great sense of humor and can brighten up a room.”
The incident, which Turnbull described as an unprovoked attack, occurred shortly before 6 p.m. Tuesday. Turnbull said dispatchers became aware of trouble when Ladwig relayed via police radio that he was in a fight with a man.
Investigators had not been able to discuss the incident with Ladwig as of Wednesday afternoon, Turnbull said. But Turnbull said a review of video from a camera at the light rail station showed Ladwig’s initial contact with Spann was peaceful until Spann jumped up from a seated position and attacked Ladwig.
At some point, Spann allegedly was able to get Ladwig’s service weapon and used the gun to fire two shots. One of the shots hit the deputy in the face.
The injured deputy managed to radio to dispatchers that he had been shot. Dozens of deputies, including the department’s SWAT officers, responded to the scene along with other police agencies. A Sheriff’s Department helicopter crew saw Spann run into the nearby Red Roof Inn on Watt Avenue.
Law enforcement officers closed Watt Avenue and nearby roads and surrounded the motel. Meanwhile, Ladwig was taken by ambulance to the hospital.
Deputies used a wheeled robot with a camera to find Spann hiding in a fetal position in an alcove in an outside hallway of the motel. Deputies took Spann into custody without further incident about 9:15 p.m., three hours after the shooting, on suspicion of attempted murder.
Court records show that Spann is originally from San Jose and at some point moved to Galt in south Sacramento County.
At 18, he was accused in Santa Clara County of being the trigger man in the 2008 murders of Omar Aquino, 24, and Maria Teresa Sanchez-Aquino. Prosecutors eventually changed their theory of the case and pegged someone else as the shooter, and Spann pleaded to lesser charges.
Spann was released on parole in July 2009, according to Luis Patino of the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. A year later, Spann was returned to the department’s custody after a conviction on drug charges, and he was released after serving about nine months.
He is scheduled for a June 30 Sacramento Superior Court hearing on allegations that he has been harassing a family in Galt, including sexually assaulting a teenage girl in that family and peeping into windows at the family’s home, according to Sacramento Superior Court records.
He was served court papers by a Sacramento County sheriff’s deputy at his residence June 12, court documents show.
The Galt father of four alleges that Spann pulled up his niece’s shirt as she walked past him. His application for a restraining order stated that police were called in to investigate. “Nicory had been seen following children home from school, looking through windows at the home and sexually assaulting my niece prior to assaulting myself,” the father stated in court papers.
Court records show Spann also faced misdemeanor charges in recent years, including disturbing the peace at a school in April 2012. Later that year, in October, Spann faced misdemeanor charges of making threats, drawing a weapon and vandalism.
In October 2012, Spann was also the subject of a civil harassment petition. The petition was filed in Sacramento Superior Court, but no action was taken, according to court records.
Two months later, in December 2012, he faced yet more charges of falsely calling in a bomb threat and possessing an alcoholic beverage on school grounds, Sacramento Superior Court records show.
Records show Spann pleaded no contest in April of this year to the vandalism and false bomb threat allegations and was sentenced to 30 days in jail and three years’ informal probation.
SacRT security officials said they had been putting a spotlight on the Watt/I-80 station in recent weeks. The station, which is the last one on the district’s Blue Line, is more remote than other stations, and had previously been among the least maintained and policed, because of its distance from the rest of the system.
SacRT operations and security officials reported to the agency board at a meeting earlier this month that they had begun focusing on the station, including increasing uniformed security, adding cleaning crews and new lighting.
On Wednesday, SacRT security chief Hinz said in a statement that the agency remains focused on that effort – now with added impetus.
“Deputy Ladwig is a well-respected member of our team, and we will honor his efforts by ensuring that Watt/I-80 be turned into a model station in the months ahead,” she said.
The Bee’s Bill Lindelof, Thomas Oide and Molly Sullivan contributed to this report.
Brad Branan: 916-321-1065, @BradB_at_SacBee