A fugitive parolee sought since Monday night in what Mendocino County authorities say was the attempted murder of a sheriff's deputy was taken into custody Wednesday evening after authorities surrounded a Ukiah motel they had had under surveillance for most of the afternoon, Sheriff Tom Allman said.
Walter Kristopher Miller, 42, surrendered to his Sonoma County parole officer shortly before 6:30 p.m. at the Best Western Plus/Orchard Inn near downtown Ukiah, coming out into the night surrounded by the sheriff's SWAT team and officers from several other law enforcement agencies.
Miller came out with his hands up and was quickly arrested on multiple charges in connection with a high-speed pursuit during which he is alleged to have fired multiple shots at a Mendocino County sheriff's deputy until his handgun jammed, Allman said.
The sheriff said his goal was to end the nearly two-day search without additional gunfire. He got the peaceful resolution he was after.
"He was noncombative, and he followed our orders," Allman said.
It was unclear how long Miller had been holed up at the motel or whether he had any firearms with him, as had been supposed.
Allman said detectives were in the process of executing a search warrant for the motel room as he was briefing the press.
He said authorities were tipped around noon that a man believed to be Miller, an ex-felon and parolee with close ties to Sonoma County, was inside a room at the South Orchard Street motel.
Detectives began watching the motel and contacted several visitors who left the room, developing evidence that it was indeed Miller, Allman said.
A command post was established to keep the room under surveillance while the SWAT team was briefed, the motel evacuated and negotiations begun by phone. Folks at some neighboring businesses were told to shelter in place, Allman said. A stretch of the road was closed, as well.
Allman said authorities were in contact with Miller on the motel phone off and on for several hours. Miller cut negotiations short at times, but authorities persisted.
Allman said one of the lessons from a five-week manhunt outside Fort Bragg in 2011 was to exercise patience and give a peaceful surrender time to succeed.
Around 5 p.m., or perhaps a few minutes later, Miller said he would come out if his parole officer were brought to the scene from Sonoma County.
"Within five minutes of him arriving, he did come out of the motel room with his hands up, and he was arrested and he has been taken to jail," Allman said.
Authorities from two counties had been looking for Miller since he disappeared late Monday night into the woods west of town after a pursuit in which he is suspected of firing numerous rounds at a deputy before he and a second suspect abandoned their car off Highway 253, the sheriff's office said. The second man, Christopher Skaggs, 30, was apprehended the next day.
Authorities believe the pair were the occupants of a 1995 Ford Thunderbird that an unidentified deputy tried to pull over Monday night for expired registration on South State Street in Ukiah.
The driver pulled over and appeared to yield, but then sped away as the deputy approached the window, initiating a pursuit.
The ensuing chase went south through Ukiah, then west on Highway 253 toward Boonville. About 1 1/2 miles in, the passenger in the Thunderbird leaned out the window and began firing as the driver swerved into oncoming lanes in an apparent attempt to provide a better shot, the sheriff's office said.
The deputy was uninjured, but a round of ammunition lodged in the grill and radiator of his patrol car, disabling it within about another mile, sheriff's Lt. Greg Van Patten said.
Allman said authorities had evidence indicating the shooter would have continued firing had the handgun not jammed.
A phalanx of law enforcement officers from two counties converged on the area and took up the search. They discovered the car abandoned in a private drive off Highway 253 apparently chosen at random, about six miles west of Ukiah, Van Patten said.