Man shot dead amid confrontation with Healdsburg police
Published: Saturday, February 15, 2014 at 8:57 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, February 15, 2014 at 6:55 p.m.
A man reported to have broken into a Healdsburg home died of a gunshot wound Friday night after a struggle with police officers, authorities said Saturday.
Healdsburg police said the man died inside the home from what was believed to be a single, self-inflicted gunshot.
Police Chief Kevin Burke said four of his officers responded to a report of an intruder in a home in the 100 block of Kennedy Lane around 8 p.m.
The home’s residents, including a husband and wife and their two children, came home to find a man they did not know in their house, setting off a physical struggle between the husband and the intruder and prompting the wife to call 911, said Lt. Carlos Basurto of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, which is investigating the fatal shooting.
Minutes after the 7:58 p.m. call came in, Healdsburg officers arrived at the home to find the husband and reported intruder still locked in a struggle, Basurto said.
Officers intervened, seeking to detain the suspected intruder, Basurto said. “Within moments a gunshot went off,” he said.
The man subsequently was handcuffed and officers recovered a small-caliber handgun, Basurto said.
They apparently were not aware before the shooting occurred that the man was armed, he said.
Basurto said he couldn’t say whether any of the responding officers had drawn their weapons during the struggle or whether the man had been in officers’ grasp when the shot was fired.
He also said he couldn’t confirm where the recovered handgun had been in the suspected intruder’s possession prior to the gun being fired.
The man’s identity was being withheld Saturday to allow for notification of his family members. Basurto said he was a 43-year-old Healdsburg resident.
Burke said none of the home’s residents or the responding officers was injured.
No one answered the door Saturday at the house where the incident occurred.
“As far as I know, they’re doing OK,” Basurto said. “Of course, they’re shaken up.”
Neighbors described a large police response Friday night, including a helicopter that hovered overhead.
Officers told neighbors the suspected intruder had been on the run from law enforcement.
Basurto would not say if the man was being sought by authorities or whether he had fled to the house in the course of a pursuit, as neighbors suggested.
“There was no pursuit,” Basurto said. “But I’m not going to comment on anything that happened previously at this time.”
Because the incident resulted in a death, it is being investigated by the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office under a countywide protocol in which fatal cases involving officers are handed over to a different agency for review.
Burke, the Healdsburg police chief, deferred most questions to sheriff’s officials. He declined to name the officers involved or to say whether any of them had discharged a weapon or whether the suspected intruder’s gun discharged accidentally or was fired deliberately by the man.
Basurto confirmed that the preliminary investigation has found the gunfire was self-inflicted. He could not confirm Saturday that it involved a single gunshot, nor would he say where the man was hit.
An autopsy will be conducted.
All of the officers involved are on administrative leave while investigators examine the case, a routine step in critical incidents.
Kennedy Lane is a modest, middle-class neighborhood on the western bank of the Russian River, directly across from Veterans Memorial Beach. Neighbors said they did not know where the intruder was coming from or why he entered the house where the incident occurred.
Healdsburg Mayor Jim Wood said he was informed of the shooting in an email he saw Saturday morning and that he was in contact with the police chief throughout the day.
He called the shooting — a rare instance of fatal gun violence in Healdsburg — “disturbing.”
“I’m sorry for all the families involved in this tragic incident,” he said. “Any time there are acts of violence like this, I think it puts everybody a little on edge.”
It was the third fatal shooting incident involving law enforcement officers in Sonoma County in four months, though there is no indication that the officers directly caused the death in this case.
In October, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Deputy Erick Gelhaus shot 13-year-old Andy Lopez, who was walking up Moorland Avenue on the outskirts of Santa Rosa carrying an airsoft BB gun. Gelhaus told investigators that the gun resembled a real AK-47 rifle and that he shot in fear as the youth turned toward him after Gelhaus called out to the boy to drop the weapon.
That case set off months of angry protests and calls for an overhaul of the way police agencies handle officer-involved shootings. District Attorney Jill Ravitch is reviewing a report on the case to determine whether Gelhaus should face any criminal charges.
A month later, three deputies returned fire on a man in Guerneville who had shot at them with a rifle. The incident did not injure the officers but left Wayne A. Courtright, 58, dead. Investigators described him as drunk and suicidal before the shooting and said he had threatened his wife before officers arrived.
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