Adding to the chaos surrounding the Camp Fire, law enforcement officers Thursday fatally shot a homicide suspect after confronting him near the fire evacuation zone.
A police dog from Sutter County was also killed by the officers’ fire, as well as the suspect’s dog.
Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey said the shooting wasn’t connected to the deadly fire.
Ramsey said the incident began shortly after 11 a.m. in the parking lot of Pines Hardware Store in Yankee Hill near Concow, which has been devastated by the fire along with Paradise and Magalia. The store is outside the evacuation zone, and people are allowed in the vicinity. Ramsey said during a Thursday press conference that a citizen notified a sheriff’s deputy on patrol of a “suspicious” man who had been staying in a parked car there for three days.
After running the license plate, the deputy learned the occupant was a man who was “well-known to the sheriff’s office and an armed and dangerous wanted parolee.”
The man, a Berry Creek 48-year-old parolee-at-large, was not identified Thursday. Ramsey said he was suspected in a double homicide from about four years ago, although Ramsey, meeting with reporters a few miles south of scene of the incident, didn’t have details of that earlier case.
As sheriff’s deputies approached the parolee,ordering him to show his hands, the suspect allegedly responded by saying “You guys should have left me alone” and “I’m not going back,” according to Ramsey. He added the man had been in prison on weapons charges previously.
Ramsey said officers “heard what they felt was a gun clicking,” and backed away from the vehicle. The suspect sped off, crashing into at least one civilian vehicle before driving south on Highway 70 to the Pentz Road intersection, a few miles south of Paradise. There, a police “spike-strip” disabled his car tires and he rolled to a stop.
When the suspect exited his vehicles, one hand was still in his right pocket, Ramsey said. Officers released a police dog named Bandit from Sutter County on him.
“As Bandit was doing his job attempting to stop the man, the man came with a metallic object in his hands and pointed it at the officers,” Ramsey said. Six officers fired on the man using two handguns and four rifles, Ramsey said.
The police dog was shot by friendly fire. The K-9 didn’t die immediately and was then attacked by the suspect’s pit bull that came out of the car. A seventh officer killed the pit bull but the police dog couldn’t be saved.
Ramsey said officials from the state Department of Justice are investigating the shooting.
Ramsey said the man was a suspect in a double murder in Berry Creek in December 2014. A search warrant at the time of his place revealed a shotgun, handgun and a pipe bomb. Later he was arrested with a AK-47, a pistol, a revolver, a dagger and brass knuckles on his persons, concealed under a thick coat, Ramsey said.
The man was later convicted of possession of a destructive device and methamphetamine, among other charges, and was declared mentally incompetent to stand trial “for some time,” Ramsey said.
In November 2016, the man was sentenced to seven years and four months in a state prison, he said. In May of this year, the man was paroled; in July, he went missing from his parole and had been sought since.