This morning’s officer-involved shooting fatality brings the 2014 total — with 13 days left in the year — to 16 homicides. According to statistics provided by the Humboldt County Coroner’s Office, that’s more than in any year since at least 1985 (the office only had statistics readily available stretching back to 1986). Since 1986, the county has seen a double-digit homicide total 11 times, with the previous high being 15 back in 1988.
Last year, there were 11 homicides documented in the county, a jump from the five recorded in each of 2011 and 2012.
Of this year’s homicides, two have been committed by police officers — the Sept. 17 shooting of Thomas “Tommy” McClain by a Eureka officer and this morning’s shooting of an unidentified male suspect by a CHP officer. (It should be noted that the term homicide is defined as the killing of one human being by another, and does not imply whether the death was justified, illegal or other. Legally speaking, there are three types of homicides in California: murder, manslaughter and justifiable.)
Humboldt County Coroner Dave Parris said it’s really hard to point out a singular cause for this year’s homicide spike. Looking at the numbers over the years, Parris said they seem to jump up every couple of years. “Why? I don’t know,” he said.
If you read through case files on each of the homicides, Parris said some trends emerge: a number were related to domestic violence issues and more were related to marijuana cultivation or sales.
Of the 16 people who have died at the hands of another this year, six were killed in southern Humboldt County, six in Eureka, two in Fieldbrook, one in Trinidad and one in Willow Creek. Of the 16 victims, six were age 25 or younger, which Parris said is troublesome.
“What’s really concerning to me is that, with the last two homicides we’ve had, we’re looking at young people — young victims,” he said. “Losing kids under 21 years old is extremely concerning to all of us, or it should be. And we should all be asking ourselves what we can do to prevent those.”
A list of the 16 homicide victims this year by date (location of killing in parentheses):
Jan. 1 — Eric Freed, 56 (Eureka)
Jan. 8 — Jesse Ruiz, 24 (Trinidad)
March 26 — Richard Storre, 60, and Lance Henry, 25 (Eureka)
April 19 — Zackery Chapman, 36 (Garberville)
July 18 — Neil Decker, 50 (Alderpoint)
July 21 — Scott Johnson, 57 (Alderpoint)
Sept. 3 — Harley Hammers, 37, and Angel Tully, 37 (Fieldbrook)
Sept. 17 — Thomas McClain, 22 (Eureka)
Oct. 14 — Robert Flaherty, 30 (Garberville)
Oct. 19 — Ethan Stroud, 32 (Shelter Cove)
Oct. 22 — Daneyal Siddique, 40 (Garberville)
Nov. 15 — Casey Campbell, 22 (Eureka)
Dec. 17 — Name not released, 14 (Eureka)
Dec. 18 — Name and age not released (Willow Creek)
Humboldt County has seen more homicides within its borders this year than in any stretching back nearly 30 years.