Saturday, September 9, 2017

Arcata Police, Witnesses Describe How a Fight Erupted into Gunfire

Posted By on Sat, Sep 9, 2017 at 8:30 PM

click to enlarge The taped-off crime scene at bar row on the Arcata Plaza. - THADEUS GREENSON
  • Thadeus Greenson
  • The taped-off crime scene at bar row on the Arcata Plaza.
Officers were approaching a parked car that they believed contained a man suspected of brandishing a firearm early this morning, when a 26-year-old man exited the vehicle and allegedly fired at least two shots at them, hitting a Humboldt State University officer in the leg and prompting the officers to return fire, fatally wounding the suspect.

According to an updated press release, at least 11 shots were fired in the exchange, which occurred on Arcata’s bustling bar row at about 1:40 a.m. According to witness accounts, the street was packed with people.

Arcata went more than 30 years without an officer involved shooting, but this incident is the second in 16 months.

click to enlarge This truck, marked with evidence tape and awaiting towing, is reportedly the vehicle from which the suspect emerged and opened fire this morning. - THADEUS GREENSON
  • Thadeus Greenson
  • This truck, marked with evidence tape and awaiting towing, is reportedly the vehicle from which the suspect emerged and opened fire this morning.
The release states that the officers — one from APD and one from UPD — responded to a call reporting a fight but found no fight in progress when they arrived. But they said a witness pointed them to a parked car, saying they believed it to be associated with a man who had been involved in the fight and brandished a firearm. When officers approached the blue Ford F150, the shootout began, according to the release.

Witnesses interviewed by the Journal this morning said the fight began with a verbal altercation between a man and a woman out in front of the bars. The situation escalated when the man walked over the hood of the woman’s car, prompting her to yell at him. At that point, the witnesses said, one of the man’s friend’s intervened, pulling a handgun and threatening the woman and her friends.

One witness said he watched from nearby as an officer approached the Ford truck only to be met with gunfire.

According to APD’s press release, the deceased suspect is from Antioch, Tennessee, and one witness indicated he had been in town visiting a friend. Witnesses interviewed by the Journal corroborated APD’s claim that the suspect opened fire first and officers returned fire in self defense.

APD is currently withholding the name of the suspect, pending notification of his family, and the officers involved, both of whom have been placed on administrative leave. The UPD officer was treated and released at a local hospital after the shooting.

APD Chief Tom Chapman initially said he did not believe the incident was captured on any police video equipment — patrol car mounted cameras or body cameras — but he later corrected that, telling the Journal that part of it was caught on a responding officer’s patrol car camera. He also didn’t rule out the possibility that the incident was recorded by onlookers.

See the full press release from APD copied below and see our earlier report here.

On September 9, 2017, at about 1:25 a.m., the Arcata Police Department received a 9-1-1 call reporting a group of males physically fighting in the street near 9th and H Streets. Officers from Arcata Police and University Police Departments arrived on-scene at 1:27 a.m. When the officers arrived they did not see anyone involved in a fight. While they were in the area investigating, a bystander reported to an officer that one of the people involved in the fight had brandished a handgun. The bystander pointed out a vehicle with which they believed the person to be associated.
As the Arcata and University police officers contacted the occupants of the vehicle to investigate, a 26-year-old black male adult from Antioch, Tennessee got out of the rear passenger seat pointing a handgun at the police officers.
Initial reports indicate the man fired at least two shots at the police officers, one of which struck the University police officer.  Both officers returned fire, hitting the man several times. Officers fired approximately nine shots in total. A handgun was recovered at the scene.
The man, whose identity is being withheld pending notification of family, was pronounced dead at the Mad River Community Hospital. It is anticipated that his identity will be released Sunday.
The University police officer who was shot was transported to a local hospital where he was treated and released late today. His injuries, while serious, are not life threatening. The officer has 12 years of law enforcement experience, the last two years with University Police. The Arcata police officer was not physically injured. He is a five-year veteran of Arcata Police Department. As is normal protocol in officer involved shooting cases, both officers have been placed on administrative leave.
This investigation is being led by the Humboldt County Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT). CIRT is a multi-agency team comprised of local law enforcement agencies that train and respond to officer involved injuries and deaths. In the case of incidents where an officer is involved in a shooting it is the best practice for outside agencies to conduct the investigation.
The Humboldt County Critical Incident Response Team for this investigation includes the Eureka Police Department, Humboldt County Sheriff's Office, Humboldt County District Attorney Investigators, Fortuna Police Department, California Highway Patrol and the Department of Justice Crime Laboratory. The results of the CIRT team investigation will be forwarded to the Humboldt County District Attorney for review.
Anyone who may have information about this case is asked to call the Arcata Police Department, (707) 822-2426.

Editor's note: This post was updated from a previous version after APD Chief Tom Chapman contacted the Journal to correct his earlier comments regarding video footage of the incident.
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Thadeus Greenson

Thadeus Greenson is the news editor of the North Coast Journal.

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