“As we grow up, each of us looks for heroes, people we can respect and model our behavior after,” Mills said. “Based on the video I saw, based on the actions I heard that took place here, Steve Curtis, a CHP officer of 13 years, is a hero.”
During the conference, Mills offered the first detailed explanation of what happened at about 4:15 p.m. on Sunday.
Mills said Curtis was on patrol when he received a report of an older model, two-door green Chevy sedan driving recklessly toward Eureka on State Route 255, traveling at unsafe speeds and crossing the double yellow line as it traveled across the Samoa Bridge and approached Eureka. Mills said Curtis initiated a traffic stop on the vehicle, which had five occupants, and it pulled over on Q Street, off of Fourth Street.
Mills said Curtis approached the vehicle and contacted the driver, Killian Shane O’Quinn, a 20-year-old from the local area, and asked a few questions. Curtis then directed O’Quinn to step out of the vehicle, Mills said, at which point the driver pivoted toward the door and mumbled something to the effect of, “I’m about to have a very bad day.” O’Quinn hesitated, but eventually exited the Chevy after Curtis asked two or three more times.
Once O’Quinn stepped out of the car, Curtis reached for him, at which point Mills said O’Quinn pulled a handgun from his waist and attempted to chamber a round. A struggle ensued, with Curtis grabbing O’Quinn’s gun with one hand and reaching for his own with the other, Mills said. At this point, Mills said, O’Quinn broke away from Curtis’ grip and shot the officer in his upper right thigh.
“The officer simultaneously, while fighting for the gun, drew his weapon, firing multiple rounds striking O’Quinn,” Mills said. “The exchange of gunfire between the two lasted several seconds.”
Even after he’d been shot multiple times and lay on the ground bleeding, O’Quinn continued to try to chamber additional rounds, Mills said.
Meanwhile, Curtis called for backup and held the Chevy — and the four occupants who remained inside — at gunpoint, ordering them to keep their hands raised and visible, Mills said. He didn’t fire another round. “I cannot describe the discipline it takes to hold your fire when you are vastly outnumbered and possibly outgunned,” Mills said, later adding that the vehicle’s other occupants were later detained, interviewed and released.
Mills said investigators are still working to determine why O’Quinn drew his weapon and opened fire on the officer, saying the suspect’s motivation remains unclear. Also unclear, Mills said, is how the 20-year-old came to carry a .45 caliber handgun he couldn’t legally possess, later adding that the gun doesn’t appear to have been reported stolen.
The multi-agency Critical Incident Response Team investigation into the shooting is being led by EPD, and Mills said he hopes to turn the case over to the district attorney’s office within 90 days for a determination on whether Curtis acted legally. The shooting was captured on the dashboard video camera in Curtis’ patrol car, Mills said, and there were numerous witnesses, including some EPD has yet to track down. (Mills asks that anyone who saw the incident contact the department at 441-4060.)
Humboldt Area CHP Acting Capt. Brett Fabri said Curtis, who’s served in Humboldt County for three years, has been released from the hospital and is doing well, expected to make a full recovery.
Mills closed his prepared remarks with a comment on gun violence in America.
“We in our country have to get serious about gun violence,” he said. “This is an officer safety issue. More importantly, it’s a community issue. I understand the need for the 2nd Amendment. I understand the need for people to have guns. But I also believe we have such a serious problem that it almost cost a fine officer his life, and it did cost a young man his life.”
At a press conference this afternoon to discuss Sunday’s shootout that left a California Highway Patrol Officer wounded and a suspect dead on Q Street, Eureka Police Chief Andy Mills said the involved officer showed incredible discipline in the face of a dangerous, dynamic and intimidating situation.