Union: 4 Calif. Deputies Injured in Chase, Shootout Recovering

March 7, 2024
While three Sonoma County sheriff's deputies injured trying to apprehend an armed man are recovering at home, a deputy who suffered a critical head injured is still hospitalized and "showing improvement."

Four Sonoma County sheriff's deputies injured after a man fired on them with an AK-47 and led a car chase outside of Santa Rosa just after midnight Monday are recovering, though the most critically injured remains hospitalized, according to their union's president.

A Sheriff's Office spokesperson on Monday said four deputies were injured over the course of the pursuit. One deputy was shot in the leg, two deputies injured their hands, and the fourth deputy had a "significant head injury" and was in critical condition throughout the day Monday.

That deputy remained in the hospital Wednesday, according to Sonoma County Deputy Sheriff's Association President Cody Ebert, but "is recovering and showing improvement."

The other deputies were recovering from their injuries at home, he said.

The Sheriff's Office has yet to identify any of the deputies involved in the pursuit. On Tuesday, department spokesperson Misti Wood said the agency would release their names after conducting a "threat assessment to ensure our employees and their families are safe."

Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chairman David Rabbitt saluted the injured deputies at Tuesday's board meeting.

"Our thoughts are with those recovering and we wish them a full and speedy recovery," he said.

The Monday incident ended with the death of the suspect, who Santa Rosa Police Department officials identified Tuesday as Jose Luis Villaseñor Cervantes, a 53-year-old Santa Rosa resident.

Police detectives are reviewing Monday's events under the county's critical incident protocol, which mandates an agency outside the one whose officers are involved in a shooting conduct an investigation.

Deputies responded to the area around Stony Point and Todd roads, a semi-agrarian part of unincorporated county immediately south of Santa Rosa, at 12:10 a.m. Monday, after a 911 caller reported someone brandishing a rifle near the intersection. A deputy encountered Cervantes a little further east on Todd Road, at or near its intersection with Standish Avenue, and attempted to make a stop.

Cervantes got out of his car and started firing the AK-47 at the deputy, according to police. The responding deputy shot back.

As other deputies converged on the scene, Cervantes shot at them, too, before getting back into his car and fleeing. Following a car chase on Todd and Stony Point roads, Cervantes crashed his car into a wooden fence behind a roadside ditch.

A pursuing deputy collided with a stone pillar next to Cervantes's car. The driver of that patrol car was among the wounded deputies.

A final round of gunfire followed the crash. On Monday, police said that was an exchange of gunfire, including shots from the suspect. On Tuesday, however, a police spokesperson said they could no longer confirm the suspect fired shots after the crash, only that deputies did.

Cervantes was pronounced dead after that round of gunfire. Police have not yet released his cause of death and the Marin County Coroner is conducting the autopsy.

The exact sequence of events during the shootout and pursuit remains unclear in part because the Sheriff's Office has not released body camera footage from the deputies involved.

The county's critical information protocol — which is an agreed upon set of procedures by local law enforcement agencies, but not itself an enforceable law — leaves it to the agency whose officers are involved in the incident to release their body camera footage. In this case that means it's up to the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office.

State law requires the agency to release body camera footage and audio files, like radio dispatch, any time there is a police shooting or event that ends in critical injury or death at the hands of law enforcement. An agency can take up to 45 days to release that footage, but only if an earlier disclosure would "substantially interfere with an active investigation," according to the statute.

This is the first fatal critical incident involving sheriff's deputies since Sheriff Eddie Engram took office in January 2023.

That agency has in the past worked with an outside consulting firm to create videos that use segments of body camera footage to provide the department's account of critical incidents. It's a practice that has drawn criticism from local police reform activists and been criticized in civil lawsuits that have identified inaccuracies in how those curated videos portray events captured on body camera.


(c)2024 The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, Calif.)

Visit The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, Calif.) at www.pressdemocrat.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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