After strange proceedings, hearing set for accused deputy killer Bracamontes
Placer County sheriff’s Detective Mike Simmons was the first one to reach his partner, who lay face down on the ground in the Auburn cul de sac where Riverview Drive ends.
After driving into an ambush, Detective Mike Davis wasn’t moving, and his colleagues were desperate to save him.
One officer, Sacramento County Deputy Danny Oliver, already was dead from the rampage of violence that broke out about 10:25 a.m. on Oct. 24, 2014. Placer County officers were swarming the Auburn neighborhood where they believed Oliver’s killer might be hiding that afternoon.
Davis, who was doing paperwork in his office when he heard radio traffic about the hunt, raced to the scene in his unmarked Dodge Charger and got out of the car to look for the suspected shooter. Suddenly, he went down, and Simmons and other officers began a frantic effort that was described in chilling detail Tuesday in a Sacramento courtroom for the first time.
The testimony came in the second day of a preliminary hearing for Luis Monroy Bracamontes, who is accused of killing the deputies, and the witnesses who took the stand in Judge Steve White’s courtroom described the chaos of the moments after Davis was shot.
Sacramento police Detective Patrick Higgins, one of many area investigators brought in to help handle the case, recounted what Placer sheriff's deputies told him about the ambush that killed Davis.
It began when three deputies spotted the red Ford F-150 pickup truck the suspect was believed to have stolen in Sacramento after Oliver was shot. The deputies moved in, sparking a gunbattle that left patrol cars riddled with bullets and the deputies seeking shelter as they checked each other for bullet wounds, Higgins said.
During that shootout, authorities believe Bracamontes jumped into an idling patrol car and drove off, eventually abandoning it at the end of the cul de sac and running off.
Deputies, led by Davis, gave chase.
They drove into the cul de sac, where sight lines are obscured by heavy foliage, and immediately began taking fire. “Shot fired, shots fired, I’m hit, I’m hit,” one deputy told Higgins he heard over radio traffic.
Another deputy, Jeffrey Davis, who would end up wounded, sent out an urgent message that “he was under heavy fire,” Higgins testified.
Mike Davis got out of his car in the cul de sac and began to look around for the gunman when shots rang out again.
Jeffrey Davis saw Mike Davis kneeling down and yelled at him, “Hey, he’s right there, he’s right there,” trying to warn the detective of where the gunman was hidden.
Jeffrey Davis looked again at Mike Davis and saw him flat on the ground, Higgins testified, then opened fire at the suspect.
“He wanted to continue firing, and he looked down and saw that his hand was bloody,” Higgins said.
Higgins said that Detective Simmons, who had worked with Mike Davis for years, described rushing over to help.
“Mike was face down with both his hands underneath,” Higgins said of what Simmons told him.
Appearing to choke with emotion, Higgins added, “He said he rolled him over, and blood was gushing out of his mouth and nose.”
The deputies pulled Mike Davis into his car and sped away to a safe spot “and tried to save his life,” Higgins said.
Deputies stripped off Davis’ gear and Simmons found what he described to Higgins as a “rather unassuming-looking wound to his shoulder.”
But Simmons already feared his partner had no chance.
“He said he knew he was dead,” Higgins said. “He said they were doing CPR and they kept trying to clear his airway and more blood kept coming up.”
Desperate, deputies at the scene loaded Davis onto the hood of the car. Sgt. Bill Walton continued CPR while Simmons got into the car to try to drive toward help. Detective Chris Joyce, who was at the scene and testified Tuesday, said he held onto Davis’ legs and ran alongside until he could no longer keep up.
They rushed Davis toward a fire station and contacted the California Highway Patrol for a helicopter evacuation, but decided against it because it meant they would have to halt their life-saving CPR efforts.
It was too late. Davis died from the shot.
Now, Bracamontes faces the possibility of the death penalty if convicted in the rampage; his wife, who was arrested after being ordered out of the red pickup truck by Joyce and other deputies, faces life.
Both suspects have been in custody since the shootings and appeared in White’s fourth-floor courtroom Tuesday for the second day of a hearing to determine whether there is enough evidence to order them to trial.
Monroy sat quietly and impassively for both days of the hearing, as she has in past court appearances.
Her husband’s demeanor, which has included loud confessions, strange jokes and bouts of staring at courtroom spectators, remained consistent with his past appearances.
“You’re all pretending to be what you are not,” Bracamontes announced at one point as attorneys and courtroom staff prepared for the start of the hearing. “I’m just saying the truth, nothing but the truth.”
Bracamontes smiled and stared intently at prosecutors Rod Norgaard and David Tellman.
“You’re not helping our cause here, you’re really not,” defense attorney Norm Dawson told his client at one point before Judge White entered and the hearing began.
Dawson and co-defense attorney Jeffrey Barbour have argued that their client is too mentally ill to face trial and are pursuing their effort before the state Supreme Court. White on Monday rejected their request to delay the hearing until they can pursue their appeal.
At times during the Monday and Tuesday hearings, Bracamontes appeared to enjoy what he was hearing, especially during discussion of the gunbattles.
Bracamontes, with two stone-faced deputies sitting directly behind the chair where he sits with one hand cuffed to it, smiled broadly at times. At others, he wore a smug expression.
After Tuesday’s lunch break, Judge White took a moment to warn the suspect about his facial expressions and staring, telling him that he has the right to watch witnesses but cannot make faces or take other actions that could be construed as sending some sort of message.
“You must not do that,” White said.
“I’m not doing faces to no one,” Bracamontes replied, then agreed to the judge’s request.
For the rest of the hearing, which is expected to conclude Wednesday, he complied.