Wednesday, December 24, 2014


Posted By on Wed, Dec 24, 2014 at 11:18 AM

click to enlarge friendly_snowman.png

Those nice people up at Humboldt State University are giddy over being voted the 12th friendliest college in the whole dang nation (in a survey by ’Course, they’ve got nothing on those Cougars in Provo (the No. 1 friendliest) nor Cougar brethren in Rexburg, and apparently no Lumberjack could hope to out-smile a good many others. But it’s in the Top 20! HSU's report on the piece notes that the university’s “small class sizes, nurturing faculty and welcoming atmosphere” help account for the honor.

Here’s the Top 20 ranking, according to

#1 Brigham Young University (Provo, Utah)
#2 Brigham Young University – Idaho (Rexburg, Idaho)
#3 Biola University (La Mirada, Calif.)
#4 Whitworth University (Spokane, Wash.)
#5 Franciscan University of Steubenville (Steubenville, Ohio)
#6 Oral Roberts University (Tulsa, Okla.)
#7 Rice University (Houston, Texas)
#8 Taylor University (Upland, Ind.)
#9 California Baptist University (Riverside, Calif.)
#10 Liberty University (Lynchburg, Va.)
#11 Azusa Pacific University (Azusa, Calif.)
#12 Humboldt State University (Arcata, Calif.)
#13 Olivet Nazarene University (Bourbonnais, Ill.)
#14 Harding University (Searcy, Ark.)
#15 University of Dayton (Dayton, Ohio)
#16 University of California, Davis (Davis, Calif.)
#17 California Lutheran University (Thousand Oaks, Calif.)
#18 Texas A&M;University (College Station, Texas)
#19 Grove City College (Grove City, Pa.)
#20 Oberlin College (Oberlin, Ohio)

To see who ranked in the Top 100, go here.
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Monday, December 22, 2014

3rd UPDATE: Name Released in Eureka Homicide

Posted By on Mon, Dec 22, 2014 at 6:06 PM

click to enlarge EPD.jpg
Third update: The coroner's office says the 14-year-old victim was Jesus Joani Garcia-Romero, of Arcata.

Second Update:
Humboldt County Deputy Coroner Trevor Enright said the victim in the case is a 14-year-old from Arcata.

Enright said the boy's family has been notified, but officials are holding off on releasing his identity "because he's a minor and of some of the circumstances involved." The apparent homicide remains under investigation.

UPDATE: An EPD press release, which states the victim was a juvenile, has been added to the end of this post.

Eureka police are investigating what they believe is the county’s 15th homicide this year after finding a man lying in a yard on the 2300 block of 15th Street this morning.

EPD Capt. Steve Watson said the man was alive but unresponsive when officers arrived on scene at about 8:30 a.m., but that he later died at a local hospital. PIO Brittany Powell said the man had wounds that were “of a suspicious nature,” and that the death is being treated as a homicide. Powell said EPD is not releasing any details about the type of wounds found on the man at this point.

Powell said EPD investigators, detectives, officers and evidence technicians are investigating but have yet to identify any suspects in the case. Powell asked that anyone with information about the case call EPD at 441-4060.

If the death is confirmed as a homicide, it would be the sixth in Eureka this year, a number that includes the September officer-involved shooting death of Thomas “Tommy” McClain. It would be the 15th homicide countywide, according to the Humboldt County Coroner’s Office.

From EPD:
On December 17, 2014, at about 8:22 a.m., Eureka Police officers were dispatched to a report of an unresponsive male lying in the 2300 block of 15th Street. Upon officers arrival they located the subject and determined he was in need of immediate medical aid. Humboldt Bay Fire and City Ambulance responded to the scene and transported the male subject to St. Joseph Hospital. Lifesaving efforts were performed but the male ultimately succumbed to his injuries.

This incident is being actively investigated as a Homicide. Homicide detectives responded to the scene along with an evidence technician and took over the investigation.

It has been determined that the victim is a juvenile who is known to Law Enforcement. The victim’s age and city of residence will be released through the Coroner’s Office once proper next of kin notifications are complete.  

Editor's Note: This post was updated from a previous version to accurately reflect Eureka's year-to-date homicide total.
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UPDATED. CHP: Suspect Attacked Officer with Machete Before Fatal Shooting

Posted By on Mon, Dec 22, 2014 at 6:04 PM

click to enlarge California Highway Patrol Capt. Adam Jager holds a machete similar to the one officials say a 17-year-old suspect used to attack an officer yesterday, leading to a fatal shooting. - THADEUS GREENSON
  • Thadeus Greenson
  • California Highway Patrol Capt. Adam Jager holds a machete similar to the one officials say a 17-year-old suspect used to attack an officer yesterday, leading to a fatal shooting.
Update one: The Humboldt County Coroner's Office has released the name of the person killed: Hoopa tribal member Richard Fredrick Tis Mil Estrada, 17, of Hoopa.

Update two: The California Highway Patrol says the officer involved in this incident, Tim Gray, was discharged from U.C. Davis Medical Center today.


It was a surprise machete attack that began the deadly altercation between a California Highway Patrol officer and a Hoopa teenager near Willow Creek early yesterday morning, said CHP Capt. Adam Jager, who heads the agency’s Humboldt office.

During a press conference this afternoon, Jager said the officer responded to a report of a car that had crashed into a light pole just east of Willow Creek at about 1:35 a.m. to find a 17-year-old driver sitting behind the wheel of a Nissan sedan. The officer made contact with the driver, who then exited the vehicle, Jager said. The two then walked around to the rear of the vehicle, Jager said, when, all of a sudden, the teenager attacked the officer with a machete.

“He swung it at my officer,” Jager said, adding that the officer reflexively ducked, raising his left hand in a defensive position. The machete, Jager said, struck the officer in the hand and arm before hitting him in the face. “You can imagine what that would do.”
click to enlarge Officials say a 17-year-old from Hoopa used a machete similar to this one to attack a California Highway Patrol officer early yesterday morning. The officer fatally shot the teenager. - THADEUS GREENSON
  • Thadeus Greenson
  • Officials say a 17-year-old from Hoopa used a machete similar to this one to attack a California Highway Patrol officer early yesterday morning. The officer fatally shot the teenager.

Jager said the officer — who’s been with CHP for two years — then drew and fired his weapon as he went down. Jager declined to say how many times the officer shot or how many bullets hit his assailant, citing the ongoing multiagency investigation into the incident.

The officer, Jager said, was able to “miraculously” keep his composure and balance enough to retreat back to his patrol car, at which point he locked himself inside and radioed for help. Witnesses later told investigators that the juvenile then got back in the driver’s seat of the Nissan and began honking his horn, according to Jager.

When a backup officer arrived on scene, Jager said, he found the juvenile lying completely naked on the ground beside the Nissan, acting erratically. The officer ordered the juvenile to put his hands behind his back but he didn’t comply, Jager said, and the officer Tasered him. Ultimately, Jager said, two good Samaritans came to the officer’s assistance, helping him handcuff the juvenile. At that point, the officer and responding paramedics began CPR. A short time later, the teenager was pronounced dead at the scene.

Meanwhile, Jager said, the injured officer was transported by ambulance to Mad River Community Hospital and later flown to University of California Davis for further treatment due to the severity of his injuries. Jager declined to detail the officer’s injuries, but said repeatedly that they are “very serious.” The officer remains hospitalized in stable condition.

Humboldt County Sheriff Mike Downey said his office is leading the Critical Incident Response Team investigation into the shooting, but declined to get into details at the press conference, which took place just a little more than 36 hours after the shooting. The sheriff described the situation as fluid and fresh, adding that investigators haven’t even been able to get a statement from the injured officer at this point.

Jager said witnesses told investigators that the juvenile was acting erratically after the accident but prior to the officer’s arrival on scene, throwing things from his vehicle. The captain said it’s unclear when and how the machete came into the picture — whether the juvenile had it concealed during his initial contact with the officer or pulled it from somewhere. “We’re not sure, because it happened so fast, where that machete came from,” he said.

Officials are withholding the injured officer’s name at this point, saying they want to give him some time and privacy, but pledged to release it in the near future. The juvenile’s name has also not yet been released.

Jager said the injured officer has been with CHP for two years, but only transferred from the San Francisco Bay Area to Humboldt on Dec. 2 to become the area’s resident officer in Willow Creek as part of a program designed to bring CHP officers and the communities they serve closer together.

“This is difficult,” Jager said, apparently struggling to contain his emotion. “This is sad. This is a 17-year-old kid from Hoopa. It’s terrible. Our hearts go out to the family of this young man. … It’s a terrible thing that’s happened and there’s nothing we can do about it at this point.”

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Rain Does a River Good

Posted By on Mon, Dec 22, 2014 at 12:04 PM

click to enlarge The full Trinity, Dec. 22, 2014. - PHOTO BY KEN MALCOMSON
  • Photo by Ken Malcomson
  • The full Trinity, Dec. 22, 2014.

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Birds! Count 'em

Posted By on Mon, Dec 22, 2014 at 10:44 AM

click to enlarge IMG_4641.JPG
You see this little bird? Just chillin’ with her gull thangs? She counts and so do they. Yes, we’re in the midst of the 115th Christmas Bird Count, and birding teams throughout the Western Hemisphere and Antarctica are venturing out to count all the birds they see within a designated sphere. Locally, a couple of counts have already been done. But there’s still Willow Creek left to do, on Saturday, Dec. 27. This one takes in Horse Mountain, parts of the south fork and main stem of the Trinity River, Salyer, and the southern Hoopa Valley; contact compiler Gary Lester, 839-3373 or Other counts include: Friday, Jan. 2, Tall Trees area, compiler Ken Burton, 499-1146 or; and Sunday, Jan. 4, Loleta area, compiler Gary Lester. You must pre-arrange your attendance. 
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Thursday, December 18, 2014

County Homicide Total a 30-Year High

Posted By on Thu, Dec 18, 2014 at 4:45 PM

click to enlarge Source: Humboldt County Coroner's Office. - MILES EGGLESTON
  • Miles Eggleston
  • Source: Humboldt County Coroner's Office.
Humboldt County has seen more homicides within its borders this year than in any stretching back nearly 30 years.

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)
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2nd UPDATE: CHP Shoots, Kills Suspect Near Willow Creek

Posted By on Thu, Dec 18, 2014 at 12:04 PM

click to enlarge E15Minutes_chp_logo.jpg
Because of the officer-involved shooting that occurred early this morning, the Klamath-Trinity Joint Unified School District will shutter all its schools tomorrow, according to Superintendent Jon Ray.

“We’re closing because we’ve experienced a tragedy here in our little community, so it’s best for our families to be together,” Ray said, adding that the closure was unplanned but necessary. Schools, he said, will re-open Jan. 5 after the planned winter break.

A California Highway Patrol officer shot and killed a male suspect early this morning after responding to a single car accident on State Route 299 near Willow Creek.

According to a CHP press release, the officer was violently attacked immediately upon his arrival at the crash site, which occurred sometime after 1:35 a.m. The release states the officer was attacked with a “deadly weapon,” but CHP has declined to specify what that was.

“The officer, in fear for his life, discharged his departmentally issued firearm at the suspect,” the release states, adding that the suspect sustained fatal injuries in the exchange and was later pronounced dead at the scene. The officer was transported to a local hospital, where he is in stable condition.

The Lost Coast Outpost has parsed out scanner traffic from the incident, which can be found here.

Humboldt County Deputy Coroner Trevor Enright is currently on scene and was consequently unavailable to comment for this story. The shooting is being investigated by the Humboldt County Critical Incident Response Team, which is made up of officers from a variety of local agencies.

The officer-involved shooting is the second this week, after a Humboldt County sheriff’s deputy fired at an occupied vehicle during a pursuit Monday, injuring an unidentified woman.

See the full CHP press release below:



WILLOW CREEK, Calif. - On Thursday, December 18, 2014, at approximately 1:35 am, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) Humboldt Communications Center received a report of a single vehicle traffic collision on State Route 299 at Blue Jay Lane in the Willow Creek area. A CHP Humboldt Area officer assigned to the Willow Creek Resident Post was called out to handle the traffic collision. Upon the officer’s arrival, the officer was violently attacked by the driver of the vehicle by use of a deadly weapon. The officer, in fear of his life, discharged his departmentally issued firearm at the suspect. The suspect subsequently sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced deceased at the scene. The officer sustained major injuries and was transported by ground ambulance to a nearby hospital for treatment.

The officer is listed as in stable condition. There are no other known suspects outstanding and the CHP believes this to be an isolated incident. The county-wide shooting investigation team has been assigned to investigate this incident. In addition, the CHP’s Northern Division shooting investigation team has been assigned to investigate this incident as an internal administrative investigation.

This is a very tragic event that will have a lasting impact on our community, the CHP Humboldt Area, and the officer and families involved.

Any inquiries into this incident can be directed the California Highway Patrol Humboldt Area office at (707) 822-5981.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Officer-involved Shooting Investigation Continues

Posted By on Tue, Dec 16, 2014 at 4:15 PM

click to enlarge COVER-badge_.jpg
The Humboldt County Critical Incident Response Team is currently investigating an officer-involved shooting in McKinleyville, after a sheriff’s deputy opened fire on a fleeing vehicle occupied by two suspects in McKinleyville last night.

Details are scant at this point, but the sheriff’s office reports that a deputy attempted a traffic stop on a black SUV after learning its registered owner had a felony arrest warrant out. The vehicle fled, and a pursuit ensued until the SUV pulled into a private driveway off the 2300 block of Chapel Road, with the deputy following.

“At this time, the suspect vehicle attempted to drive back out of the driveway toward the deputy’s location, at which time shots were fired by the deputy sheriff,” the press release states.

A female suspect in the SUV suffered a “non-life threatening injury to her hand,” in the exchange and has been transported to an out-of-area hospital for treatment. She remains unidentified, according to the release, and has been uncooperative with law enforcement. The vehicle’s other occupant, identified as 23-year-old Michael Lawrence Barrett, was located near the scene and arrested. He is currently being held on a parole-violation warrant out of Los Angeles County.

The deputy who shot at the SUV has been placed on administrative leave, per department policy. See the full press releases from the Sheriff’s Office below.


The investigation into last night’s officer involved shooting in 2300 block of Chapel Hill Road in McKinleyville is still ongoing. Sheriff’s Office Detectives and members of the countywide Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) are currently investigating the incident. CIRT consists of investigators from the District Attorney’s Office, Eureka Police Department, Arcata Police Department, State Department of Justice and the California Highway Patrol.

The male suspect, Michael Lawrence Barrett (age 23) remains in the Humboldt County Correctional Facility on a no bail warrant for Parole Violation out of Los Angeles. The unidentified adult female remains in a hospital, out of the area, with a non-life threatening injury to her hand. Investigators are still trying to confirm her identity due to her not cooperating with law enforcement. Neither Barrett nor the Deputy was injured.

The Deputy involved in the shooting is not being identified at this time and remains on administrative leave per the Sheriff’s Office Shooting protocol which is standard procedure in a case such as this.

Barrett and the unidentified female have not been charged with a crime at this point pending the outcome of the investigation.

Further information will be released as it becomes available.

Anyone with information for the Sheriff’s Office regarding this case or related criminal activity is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at (707) 445-7251 or the Sheriff’s Office Tip Line at (707) 268-2539.


On 12-15-14 at about 9:00 p.m., a Humboldt County Sheriff Deputy attempted a traffic stop on a vehicle on Azalea Rd. near Chapel Hill rd. McKinleyville. The solo Deputy had observed a black SUV and learned that the vehicles registered owner had a felony warrant. The vehicle initially failed to stop and continued to drive in the 2300 block of Chapel Road. During the traffic stop the suspect vehicle pulled down into a private driveway with the Deputy following. At this time, the suspect vehicle attempted to drive back out of the driveway towards the Deputies location, at which time shots were fired by the Deputy Sheriff. During the suspects attempt to evade the Deputy, the suspect vehicle had struck two parked vehicles in the driveway. An injured female inside the vehicle has not yet been identified. The adult female received an unknown type of hand injury and was transported to a local hospital for treatment. A male suspect fled from the vehicle and ran into a wooded area. Information was gathered that the fleeing male suspect may have been armed at the time he fled. A search of the area was conducted utilizing Sheriff Deputies, and responding officers from Arcata Police Department, Eureka Police Department and the California Highway Patrol. A Fortuna Police K-9 Officer arrived and assisted with the search. After several hours of searching, the Police K-9 located a male suspect hiding in the wooded area. The male suspect, Michael Lawrence Barrett (age 23) was arrested and transported to the Humboldt County Jail and booked for his no bail charge for the Parole Violation warrant.
A County wide Shooting Investigative team has been activated and is currently investigating the incident and conducting interviews with all of the involved subjects. The Deputy has been placed on administrative leave per the Sheriff’s Office Shooting protocol.
Anyone with information for the Sheriffs Office regarding this case or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Sheriffs Office at 707-
445-7251 or the Sheriffs Office Crime Tip line at 707-268-2539.

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Eureka to Hold Special Meeting on Homelessness

Posted By on Mon, Dec 15, 2014 at 2:08 PM

click to enlarge Devil's Playground. - LINDA STANSBERRY
  • Linda Stansberry
  • Devil's Playground.
Eureka city staff is seeking some direction on the issue of homeless encampments within city limits. Community members are invited to come weigh in tomorrow, December 16, from 4:30 to 5:40 p.m., just before the Eureka City Council meets. City officials will present various perspectives on homeless encampments in Eureka and possible solutions. Then, during the council meeting — after the council’s newest members, Natalie Arroyo and Kim Bergel, have been sworn in — an action item will see council members voting on how staff should proceed on the issue.

Sadie Ekenberg has been calling community members all day, encouraging people to attend and make their voices heard. A local group, Affordable Homeless Housing Alternatives, recently hosted a forum to educate the community on the "Opportunity Village" model of alternative housing.

An issue that Ekenberg sees as key and plans to bring up during the special session is changing the criteria for extreme weather shelters. Currently extreme weather shelters only open their doors to those in need when temperatures of 36 degrees or less are expected, or in the case of torrential rains.

"Thirty-six degrees is too cold," says Ekenberg, adding that she'd like "them to move the temperature reading to a higher level so more people can come in out of the elements."

The meeting will be held at 531 K St. in Eureka, upstairs at council chambers.

Editor's Note: This post has been updated from a previous version to correct some inaccurate information.

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Friday, December 12, 2014

UPDATE: "Wild Bill' Convicted of Deputy Shooting

Posted By on Fri, Dec 12, 2014 at 3:46 PM

click to enlarge William Lloyd Nelson
  • William Lloyd Nelson
A jury this afternoon convicted William “Wild Bill” Nelson of the attempted murder of a Humboldt County sheriff’s deputy, according to Assistant District Attorney Kelly Neel.

Nelson shot deputy Bang Cao once in the chest as Cao was trying to serve a judge’s order forcing Nelson to move out of his girlfriend’s Shelter Cove home. Nelson faces life in prison at his sentencing, which is scheduled to occur Jan. 15.

For more detail on Nelson’s case and trial, read Friday’s post below.

William “Wild Bill” Nelson’s fate now rests with a Humboldt County jury.

Nelson, who stands accused of the attempted murder of Humboldt County Sheriff’s Deputy Bang Cao on May 6, watched as attorneys in the case gave closing arguments yesterday and today. This morning, as Assistant District Attorney Kelly Neel told jurors how prosecutors believe he concealed himself behind protective cover before opening fire on deputies, Nelson erupted.

“She’s lying about that,” he said loudly, rising to his feet at the defense table. “They have had evidence they concealed from the jury.”

Nelson’s attorney, public defender Greg Elvine-Kreis, tried to quiet him.

“I don’t care,” Nelson said, his voice still raised. “I’ve tried to fire you three times. What the hell have you done for me?”

Judge Marilyn Miles ordered the jury out of the courtroom before admonishing Nelson that he needed to control himself and sit quietly or she’d have him removed for the duration of the proceeding. After Nelson repeatedly promised that he’d sit quietly, Miles let the jurors back in and asked them to disregard his outburst.

Nelson, who has a lengthy history of crimes and allegations in and around Shelter Cove, was arrested May 6 after allegedly opening fire on Cao and Sheriff’s Sgt. Ken Swithenbank while the officers were attempting to serve him with court papers ordering him to move out of his girlfriend’s home. Nelson allegedly shot Cao once in the chest at close proximity during the exchange, and Sheriff Mike Downey has said it’s likely Cao would not have survived but for his bulletproof vest.

During her closing argument today, Neel aimed to rebut the defense’s charge that the officers acted inappropriately in serving the move-out order and that Nelson was fearful of the officers and acting in self defense when he opened fire.

Evidence in the case, Neel said, shows that the officers were careful as they approached Nelson’s residence, knowing him to be volatile and armed. They knocked on the door, identifying themselves as police officers and telling him they had some paperwork for him. Neel said the officers heard Nelson answer, “What do you want?,” before they heard the bolt lock on the door latch shut.

The officers waited, Neel said, while Nelson apparently armed himself and took up a tactical position behind protective covering. From there, he told Cao and Swithenbank to get off his property before opening fire. “He aimed and he fired dead-center mass,” Neel said. “He tried to kill that deputy.”

Neel went on to argue that Nelson’s actions constitute the deliberate, premeditated attempted murder of a police officer. “Mr. Nelson made a calculated, thought-out, reasoned decision and he acted on it,” she said.
After Nelson opened fire, Neel said the scene was chaotic, with both Cao and Swithenbank shooting back as they attempted to flee the scene. Nelson was ultimately arrested without incident later that day after the Sheriff’s Office mobilized the SWAT team and cordoned off a large section of Shelter Cove.

Immediately following Nelson’s outburst in front of the jury this morning, Elvine-Kreis asked Miles to declare a mistrial in the case, saying the jury couldn’t possibly decide the case fairly. Neel objected. “Mr. Nelson doesn’t get to act out in court and create a mistrial,” she said. “That’s not how it works.”

Miles agreed, and jury deliberations are currently ongoing. Nelson faces 15 years to life in prison if convicted in the case.

For a detailed look at Nelson's past, check out prior Journal coverage here.
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