Crime - Sacto 911

Suspect in Sacramento deputy killing had been on the run for a month

Sacramento County sheriff's deputy killed in motel shooting

Sheriff"s spokesman Sgt. Tony Turnbull and Sheriff Scott Jones discuss death of a deputy and the search for possible additional suspects at the Ramada Inn.
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Sheriff"s spokesman Sgt. Tony Turnbull and Sheriff Scott Jones discuss death of a deputy and the search for possible additional suspects at the Ramada Inn.

Thomas Daniel Littlecloud had been on the run for weeks when he arrived in Sacramento and allegedly set off a wild gunbattle that killed an area deputy Wednesday.

The suspect in the slaying of Sacramento County Sheriff’s Deputy Robert French at an Auburn Boulevard Ramada Inn had eluded authorities since July, when he failed to appear in court for two separate cases – one a federal indictment charging him with methamphetamine and weapons possession and identity theft, the other a 2015 weapons case in Sonoma County where a judge issued a $50,000 bench warrant for his arrest.

Littlecloud, 32, of Castro Valley, has a lengthy criminal history dating back to 2004, one that includes charges of assaulting a peace officer, assault with a semiautomatic weapon and car theft.

Littlecloud failed to appear in both the Sonoma County case and the federal case, where he was scheduled to accept a plea agreement on July 3. He did not show for that hearing or a subsequent July 7 hearing, federal court records show, and the government is now asking that the $100,000 bond posted by his parents be forfeited, which could result in them losing their home.

His mother has been urging Littlecloud for the past month to turn himself in, and has been trying to help police find him, a source familiar with the case told The Bee.

A hearing is scheduled in federal court in San Francisco for Sept. 8 on the forfeiture issue. Littlecloud’s acquaintances have been posting online for days asking him to turn himself in.

“Your mom called me looking for you,” a post on his Instagram page read. “Says your missing.”

Another urged Littlecloud to “think about your son Thomas, he needs you and he needs his grandparents.”

“Your parents will lose their house September 8th 2017 if you don’t turn yourself in,” said the post, which urged him to turn himself into authorities or move into a drug treatment program. “Your mother put everything on the line for you and this is how you’re repaying her...?

“You should be ashamed to be on the run. You will make the most important decisions of your life these next 2 weeks.. jelani house (a drug treatment program), federal prison or death. Only you can save yourself.”

Authorities say Littlecloud ignored those pleas. Instead, they say he turned up in Sacramento for what may have been a car theft excursion that ended with French shot to death, two California Highway Patrol officers wounded and Littlecloud in critical condition with life-threatening injuries.

The incident began at 9:30 a.m. at the Ramada at Auburn and Watt Avenue, when officers from an auto theft task force spotted a stolen car in the hotel parking lot. Two women got into the car and authorities gave chase, eventually pulling the vehicle over in Elk Grove and detaining the occupants.

One was later released, but CHP officers arrested Priscilla Prendez, a 23-year-old woman from Oakland who is originally from Pollock Pines, according to online records. Prendez, who was on probation, was registered at a room in the Ramada, which prompted officers to return there.

CHP officers went to the second-floor room and knocked, announcing that they were law enforcement, according to sheriff’s Sgt. Tony Turnbull.

“Multiple shots were fired through the front door and walls of the room towards officers,” the sheriff’s department said in a statement Thursday.

“Littlecloud then attempted to exit through the back balcony of the motel room holding a high powered assault rifle,” the statement said. “He engaged the deputies in gunfire, striking Deputy French during his attempt to flee. He fled from the balcony into a nearby car.”

Littlecloud fled in a car that was reported stolen from the Bay Area and led officers onto a chase on El Camino Avenue that ended when he smashed it head-on into a utility pole.

Authorities say Littlecloud was wounded when he “engaged pursuing officers” and he was taken to an area hospital, where he was in critical condition.

littlecloud with son (2)
An unidentified poster admonishes Thomas Littlecloud on Instagram. Littlecloud is pictured here with his son. Vellinga, Mary Lynne - Sacramento

French, a 52-year-old deputy with 21 years’ experience, died on the way to a hospital.

The CHP officers hurt in the shooting were undercover investigators and their names were not released because they work undercover, but both are expected to survive, authorities said. One was struck by gunfire in the shoulder and released from the hospital Wednesday night. The other investigator was shot in the hand and the wrist, and was recovering from surgery Thursday morning.

Six sheriff’s deputies fired their weapon in the gun battle, in addition to French, and were put on administrative leave as part of the department’s protocol in officer-involved shootings.

Turnbull said officers fired their weapons at different points throughout the incident. It was not known which gunshots hit Littlecloud.

Turnbull could not say whether officers located anything else in the hotel room.

Prendez was arrested on charges of felony evasion and vehicle theft and booked into the Sacramento County Main Jail in lieu of $90,000 bail. She was subsequently moved to the Yolo County Jail as a matter of policy.

“It’s normal procedure that we do whenever someone might be associated with the death of one of our officers,” Turnbull said. Prendez faces her first court hearing in Sacramento Friday afternoon.

Charges against Littlecloud, if he survives, are pending.

Online criminal records from Alameda Superior Court show Littlecloud’s criminal history dates back at least 13 years, when he was charged with possession of a sawed-off shotgun or rifle and sentenced to 109 days in county jail.

As recently as Aug. 4, Littlecloud was facing a felony charge of violating his post-release community supervision.

Although he had no criminal history in Sacramento before Wednesday, his criminal history in the Bay Area is extensive.

In January 2005, he was charged with vehicle theft, resisting an officer, battery with injury on emergency workers and possession of a controlled substance.

08312017_Priscilla Prendez booking
Priscilla Prendez, 23 Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department

Nine months later, he was charged with vehicle theft, possession of a controlled substance for sale and possession of a firearm by a felon, online records state.

Littlecloud was charged in September 2013 with evading an officer and possession of a firearm by a narcotics addict, records state.

Details of the outcome of the cases were not immediately available, but media reports from the Bay Area indicate that in December 2015 he led Rohnert Park police on a chase as they tried to arrest him on an outstanding warrant.

After a foot chase, police found him with heroin, methamphetamine, a stolen handgun and stolen bank cards, according to a report by CBS SF. That incident appears to be the Sonoma County court case that resulted in the bench warrant being issued for Littlecloud in July.

On Thursday morning, the parking lot of the Ramada remained littered with broken car glass and crime scene investigators could be seen in multiple second floor rooms. While the Enterprise Car Rental attached to the hotel was open for business, Capital City Catering general manager Steve Zeigler said the second floor of the hotel was closed off and most guests had left.

Capital City Catering has offices inside the hotel and Zeigler said he and other employees were asked to remain there for hours Wednesday after the shooting while police combed the building for other suspects. Zeigler said there were “more than 100” officers at the scene.

Two California Highway Patrol officers and a Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department deputy were shot Wednesday in the 2600 block of Auburn Boulevard, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department reports.

Blocks surrounding Auburn Boulevard and Fulton Avenue were shut down as officers searched for shooting suspects.

Nashelly Chavez: 916-321-1188, @nashellytweets. The Bee’s Anita Chabria contributed to this report.

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