Crime - Sacto 911

Woman arrested in car chase before fatal deputy shooting appears in court

Bail raised to $150,000 for suspect in car chase that led to deputy's shooting death

Priscilla Prendez, a 23-year-old woman suspected of taking a stolen car and fleeing from officers before a Sacramento County Sheriff's deputy was shot, arrives at court to face charges during her first court appearance on Friday, Sept. 1, 2017.
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Priscilla Prendez, a 23-year-old woman suspected of taking a stolen car and fleeing from officers before a Sacramento County Sheriff's deputy was shot, arrives at court to face charges during her first court appearance on Friday, Sept. 1, 2017.

Priscilla Prendez walked into a Sacramento courtroom’s jail cell Friday, met by a squad of Sacramento County sheriff’s deputies and a row of news cameras. The 23-year-old Prendez was arraigned Friday on suspicion of felony auto theft and felony evading connected to the violent shootout at a Fulton Avenue Ramada Inn that claimed the life of a veteran sheriff’s deputy and wounded two California Highway Patrol officers.

Two days after Deputy Robert French was killed, deputies at the Sacramento County Main Jail, where Friday’s hearing was held, wore skeins of black ribbon across their badges that marked the loss of their fallen comrade. Thomas Daniel Littlecloud, a long criminal record trailing him out of the Bay Area, was arrested on suspicion of firing the shots that felled the 21-year sheriff’s veteran.

The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office had not yet filed charges against Littlecloud on Friday afternoon. He remains at a local hospital in critical condition with gunshot wounds.

Prendez spoke little at her arraignment, only to tell Sacramento Superior Court Judge Richard Sueyoshi that she could not afford an attorney. Sacramento County deputy public defender Joe Cress will represent her.

Sacramento Deputy District Attorney Nicole Shaker asked to have Prendez’s bail set at $150,000, and Sueyoshi agreed.

In a jailhouse interview, Prendez told KCRA that she worked as a prostitute. She said she did not know the car she was driving was stolen, and fled from officers because she was scared.

Of Littlecloud, she said, “Let him know I love him and I care about him. And he’s always in my heart.”

Prendez, 23, led officers on a high-speed chase Wednesday from the parking lot of the Ramada Inn on Auburn Boulevard to Elk Grove, where she was taken into custody. Her arrest prompted officers to circle back to the Ramada and knock on the door of the room registered in her name.

A burst of bullets fired through the walls met the CHP and Sacramento County sheriff’s deputies on the scene. A man then jumped off the hotel balcony and drove wildly away, later crashing and exchanging gunfire with officers.

Littlecloud, 32, of Castro Valley, has a lengthy criminal history dating back to 2004 that includes charges of assaulting a peace officer, assault with a semi-automatic weapon and car theft. He has been on the run 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 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.

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

Prendez faces felony charges of driving in a reckless manner to evade police officers and vehicle theft. She is accused of getting into a stolen vehicle in the Ramada Inn parking lot on Auburn Boulevard with another woman the morning of the shooting. Prendez, who drove the car, refused to stop when investigators with the Sacramento County Auto Theft Task Force tried to pull the two women over, Turnbull said.

After her arrest in Elk Grove, Prendez was booked into the Sacramento County Main Jail for vehicle theft and felony evasion, while the other woman in the car was questioned and later let go. Investigators noticed Prendez was on probation and learned a room at the Ramada Inn was registered in her name, a Sheriff’s Department press release said Thursday.

Prendez was on probation out of Alameda County beginning May 2016 in connection to an auto theft crime, an Alameda County Probation Department press release said Thursday.

Alameda Superior Court records show five separate cases under Prendez’s name from 2013 to March of this year. Each one includes charges for the unlawful taking or driving of a vehicle.

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

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