Galt Officer Kevin Tonn and K-9 Yaro
Photo credit: Foothills K9 Association/Julie Baldwin
For the second time in as many months, the Galt community is grieving after a local officer was shot and killed Tuesday trying to track down a burglary suspect.
K-9 Officer Kevin Tonn, a 3 1/2-year veteran of Galt's police force, died at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, south Sacramento, after suffering a single gunshot wound while wrestling with a man believed to have been involved in a break-in less than a block away.
That suspect, who had not been identified by late Tuesday, fired at the second arriving officer before turning his gun on himself, according to authorities. He was pronounced dead in the grassy field where the men had struggled, not far from the railroad tracks that run through the small, rural town in south Sacramento County.
Several members of the 36-officer Police Department showed up to an afternoon press conference with somber faces and black mourning bands already wrapped around their badges.
Tonn "was a very well-respected, very proactive member of our department," said Lt. Jim Uptegrove, who oversees the small K-9 unit that included Tonn. "His loss is extremely tragic to us and to our community. It's definitely a loss that will be felt throughout."
The shooting unfolded from what at first appeared to be a routine call of a burglary in progress at a duplex in the 200 block of F Street.
The call came in at 11:18 a.m., said Sacramento County Sheriff's Sgt. Jason Ramos. Officers arrived on the scene at 11:25 a.m. and found that the door of a duplex had been kicked in.
Shortly after 11:30 a.m., a man was reported walking along the railroad tracks near the burglary scene.
Tonn parked his patrol car along the tracks, left his canine partner, Yaro, inside and tried to contact the man. At 11:34 a.m., dispatchers were alerted that an officer was in a fight -- possibly by Tonn himself radioing for help -- and two minutes later a second officer reported shots fired and an "officer down."
Uptegrove said investigators later learned that during the struggle with Tonn, the suspect pulled out a handgun and shot the officer once. He turned to run, but then fired several shots at the next arriving officer before shooting himself.
The second officer, who was not hurt, was not able to return fire because of the position in which he had taken cover, Uptegrove said. Tonn also did not fire any shots, he said.
As of Tuesday afternoon, police had not confirmed that the gunman was the suspect in the earlier burglary, Uptegrove said.
The call of an officer down brought police racing to the scene from throughout the region, including Sacramento County sheriff's deputies, who took over patrol duties so Galt's officers could grieve.
That agency's homicide detectives are investigating the shooting.
Uptegrove described Tonn as "hardworking" and "friendly," and said the officer was well-known among local criminals. Before graduating from the Sheriff's Academy in 2009 and joining the Galt Police Department, Tonn worked as a firefighter and paramedic in New York, Uptegrove said.
He said chaplains were available to help Tonn's colleagues cope with the loss. "We are a very small agency, and we're a very family-oriented agency," he said.
Tonn is only the second Galt police officer to die on duty that officials could remember; the first was an officer who died in 1989 after suffering a heart attack.
The last line-of-duty deaths in the Sacramento region occurred in 2008, when Yolo County Sheriff's Deputy Jose Antonio "Tony" Diaz was fatally shot and Sacramento County Sheriff's Deputy Larry Canfield died in a motorcycle collision.
As the community waited for word of Tonn's condition -- knowing only that an officer had been shot -- some residents gathered at the police tape and exchanged information and rumor.
Still on the minds of some was Sacramento County Animal Control Officer Roy Marcum, shot to death Nov. 28 while tending to animals believed to have been left behind by an evicted resident.
That shooting happened just down the street from Tuesday's incident. A second act of violence so soon after and so near the site of Marcum's death came as a shock to some -- one amplified by the fact that many in Galt know their local cops by name, residents said.
"It's just a small town," said 20-year-old Luis Vizcara. "Everyone knows everyone."
Steve Langley lives just across the street from the grassy lot where Tonn was shot. He came home in time to see Tonn's fellow officers carrying him frantically to a waiting stretcher. Upon hearing Tonn had died, Langley shook his head.
"There's probably a lot of people who do know the officer and it's probably going to make a bigger impact -- a bigger impact here than in other cities," said Langley, 50. "It's just a sad, sad thing."
McClatchy-Tribune News Service