Look back at the tumultuous first week of alleged cop killer Luis Bracamontes' trial
Luis Bracamontes got his wish.
After listening to hours of testimony Wednesday about the bloody 2014 gunbattle he had with deputies in Auburn, the confessed cop killer declared that he no longer wished to be present.
“F--- it, I don’t wanna be here no more,” Bracamontes blurted out, interrupting the testimony of a deputy he had wounded during the shootout. “F--- the jury, too. And the dead cops, and their stupid f------ families, too.”
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Steve White immediately obliged him, directing both juries in the case to leave the courtroom, then ordering deputies to escort the heavily shackled prisoner to a courthouse holding cell equipped with video equipment.
“Mr. Bracamontes, you’ll see the rest of the trial from 5-tank,” White said.
“F--- you, judge,” the defendant replied as he was led away.
White later issued a formal ruling that Bracamontes remain out of court during the entire guilt phase of the trial, although he agreed to entertain defense motions to allow him back in if they are supported by enough evidence.
White noted that Bracamontes has repeatedly made threats to kill officers and others and that he is concerned about the possibility of the defendant attempting violence in the courtroom.
“His threats to jurors are taken seriously by this court,” White said, adding that his order is “necessary and unavoidable.”
The outburst, one of many from Bracamontes since his trial began last week, came on the sixth and most dramatic day of testimony in the death penalty case.
Bracamontes, 37, who was passing through Sacramento on a trip from his Salt Lake City home, is an illegal immigrant from Mexico who had been deported several times. This week his trial became ad fodder for President Trump’s effort to step up deportations and build a border wall.
He is accused of a daylong rampage on Oct. 24, 2014, that began in Sacramento with the slaying of Deputy Danny Oliver. It ended in Auburn, where Placer County sheriff’s Detective Michael Davis Jr. died during a firefight in a residential cul de sac.
Davis’ partner, Detective Mike Simmons, recounted Wednesday how he and other deputies came under heavy fire from an AR-15 rifle after they raced into the end of Riverview Drive that afternoon in search of the suspect.
By then, authorities say, Bracamontes had killed Oliver, shot a motorist, carjacked two vehicles and engaged in a shootout with Placer deputies during which he jumped into an empty patrol car and raced toward the cul de sac.
Davis and other deputies saw that patrol car charging into the cul de sac and followed, mistakenly thinking a deputy was driving the vehicle in pursuit of their suspect.
Instead, deputies testified Wednesday, they drove into an ambush that killed Davis and severely wounded another Placer deputy, Jeffrey Davis. (The two men are not related.)
“I thought I was dead,” Jeff Davis testified as he recounted crouching behind his patrol car’s engine block as the suspect fired round after round.
“The first thing I thought is, ‘I’m about to die. This guy’s trying to kill me. I need to move,’ ” Davis said.
The stolen patrol car had been parked in the driveway of a home on the court, and Davis said that initially he and Michael Davis, who was behind his own unmarked Dodge Charger, were both swiveling their heads back and forth trying to find the location of the shooter.
Amid the gunfire, Jeff Davis said he finally spotted a pair of feet sticking out of a door of the parked patrol car with a suspect inside rooting between the two seats for something.
“I decided at that point I needed to use deadly force to stop him,” Jeff Davis said, noting that he and other officers were in peril and that residents of the cul de sac also could be killed. “It was just an overall concern that this person did not care about human life at all.”
Davis, armed with a 9 mm semi-automatic handgun, said he watched and waited for a clean shot at the suspect.
“Then he stood up,” Davis said under questioning from Placer County prosecutor Dave Tellman. “When he stood up he had what appeared to be two rifles slung around his neck and faced me. I started shooting.”
Davis recounted how, before he opened fire, he made certain the suspect was standing in front of an opening between two homes because he did not want to take a chance on his gunfire hitting a resident, then he fired twice.
“He is staring at me and he started to run,” Davis said. “After I got two shots off, it wouldn’t fire anymore. At first I thought my weapon had malfunctioned.”
Davis looked down at the firearm in his right hand. “I saw blood everywhere,” he said. “It was all over my gun and my arm. It was just gushing.
“As soon as I saw that I knew I really had to end this thing.”
He tried to aim at the fleeing suspect and fire again, he said. “I couldn’t pull the trigger.”
“I couldn’t even tell you how many holes in my arm,” he said. “I started yelling, ‘I’m hit. I’m hit.’
“I started to pass out. I had a tourniquet in my uniform but I didn’t think of it so I just stuck my fingers in the holes in my arm.”
Davis’ testimony came after Michael Davis’ partner, Detective Michael Simmons, described coming under fire in the same ambush and discovering that Michael Davis, who he said was his best friend, had been hit.
Simmons, who has since retired, said that when the deputies raced into the cul de sac they still thought the patrol car in the lead was being driven by a deputy, and that after they bailed out of their cars under heavy fire they could not figure out where the bullets were coming from.
Michael Davis had pulled in to the left of a massive oak tree in the center of the cul de sac, closest to the patrol car parked in the driveway where the gunman was hiding.
“If he had known the suspect was in the car that would have been one of the worst places to park ...,” Simmons said. “There’s no cover.”
Simmons crouched behind his car and at one point saw Davis kneeling behind his own vehicle.
“I looked over in his direction and I could tell he was no longer kneeling, he was laying flat on the ground,” Simmons said. “I couldn’t understand why he was lying on the ground.”
Simmons said officers are trained to be aware of gunshots skipping off the ground and striking them, “and I was thinking, ‘Get up, you’re going to catch a skip.’ ”
Then he saw another deputy at the rear of Davis’ car holding a rifle as if he were protecting Davis. Simmons said he ignored the gunfire and ran to his friend.
“I yelled at him to get up, I grabbed him and rolled him over. ‘We’ve got work to do, let’s go!’
“All I saw was blood coming out of his mouth. I’ve seen a lot of dead bodies in my career, and his eyes were half mast. There was no light in them. Dead eyes. I just started yelling, ‘No, no, no, no, no!’ ”
By then, the gunman has escaped down into a canyon. Bracamontes would be arrested later that day after hiding inside a home on Belmont Drive a few miles away.
Despite Davis’ injuries – Sgt. Richard Gray testified that he saw “a river of blood that came out of Mike’s mouth” when he was rolled over – Simmons could not immediately tell where he had been hit.
They cut off a long-sleeved Placer sheriff’s shirt Davis was wearing over his protective vest, then stripped that off and found he had been hit in the back of the left shoulder, one of the few spots on his torso left unprotected by the vest.
Tellman introduced the blood-stained, long-sleeved shirt into evidence fitted over a white, plastic mannequin torso that sat on a wheeled cart. A courtroom bailiff somberly wheeled the shirt and mannequin past the two juries in the case.
The Bracamontes jury was seated in the jury box Wednesday. A second jury for Bracamontes’ wife and co-defendant, Janelle Monroy, was seated behind them taking up the right side of the courtroom.
The only audible sound as the cart was wheeled through was sniffling from family members and spectators. Janelle Monroy, who faces life in prison, later began to weep silently at the defense table as deputies recalled trying to save Davis’ life.
Simmons said he and another deputy piled Davis into the back seat of Davis’ car and drove off frantically trying to find Maidu Drive because that was the only route he knew out of the neighborhood to get to a hospital. He stopped for a group of deputies parked at Maidu, and they pulled Davis out and put him on the hood of the car.
Then, one began performing CPR on the hood as the car drove toward a medical helicopter that had been called in to evacuate Davis.
Medics quickly decided they could not fit Davis into the chopper with enough room to continue CPR, so they put him in an ambulance with Simmons and raced to Sutter Roseville, where Simmons tried to go into emergency with his partner.
“They kicked me out,” Simmons recalled.