Wednesday, January 12, 2022

EPD Releases Name of Officer in Police Shooting; Suspect Returned to Humboldt

Posted By on Wed, Jan 12, 2022 at 12:19 PM

click to enlarge Officers stage amid a search for an outstanding suspect in Eureka. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Officers stage amid a search for an outstanding suspect in Eureka.
The Eureka Police Department today identified the sole officer who shot a suspect Dec. 30 during a multi-agency team operation to arrest a man wanted on suspicion of attempt robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, revocation of parole, burglary and reckless evasion.

The suspected, Little Eagle Moon, 29, of Hoopa, was shot in the hand and arm by two of the six rounds fired by EPD detective Joseph Couch after he reportedly began ramming law enforcement vehicles and driving toward officers who were trying to apprehend him at Third and T streets in Eureka.

All six of the shots hit either Moon, who then allegedly fled in the vehicle and caused a crash at Fifth and V streets before fleeing on foot into greenbelt, where he was ultimately taken into custody, or his vehicle. Two others with Moon were not injured.

Another officer fired a less-than-lethal shotgun, according to the release.

EPD policy states that an officer should only fire at a moving vehicle or its occupants if they believe “there are no other reasonable means available to avert the imminent threat of the vehicle, or if deadly force other than the vehicle is directed at the officer or others” or in the case of a terrorist attack.

Moon, who was initially treated at St. Joseph before being transferred out of the area, was booked into the Humboldt County jail today on suspicion of attempted murder of a peace officer and parole violation but is expected to face more charges, according to the EPD release.

Couch was at the scene as part of the operation to apprehend Moon. He has been with the EPD for five years and is part of the Problem Oriented Policing Team and the county’s SWAT team.

He was placed on administrative leave but has been cleared to return to full duty Jan. 7 following “a review of the investigation as it stands at this point, interviews, and a critical incident debrief,” according to EPD.

The investigation remains ongoing.

The press release says video footage of the incident was captured on body worn cameras and the department will release it according to state law, which requires it be made public as soon as it doing so won't jeopardize the investigation and not later than 45 days after the shooting, absent extraordinary circumstances.

Read the EPD update below:

The Humboldt County Multi-Agency Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) is continuing to investigate the officer involved shooting that occurred on December 30, 2021.

This is an ongoing, active investigation, and information is being released in a manner that allows us to maintain the integrity of the investigation as it is prepared and presented to the District Attorney’s office for prosecution. Additional information will be released as it becomes available and authorized by law. The following updated information is being released at this time: The investigation has revealed that there was only one officer who fired their service weapon during the incident.

The involved officer is identified as Eureka Police Detective Joseph Couch. Detective Couch has been with EPD for 5 years and is assigned to EPD’s Problem Oriented Policing Team (POP) and is a member of the Humboldt County SWAT team. Detective Couch was assigned to the operation to apprehend Moon. During the incident Detective Couch fired six (6) rounds from his patrol rifle at Moon, who was in the driver’s seat of his vehicle. All six (6) rounds struck Moon’s vehicle. At this point in the investigation it appears two (2) of those rounds struck Moon in his hand and arm. There were two other occupants in Moon’s vehicle at the time of the incident and they were not injured.

A less lethal bean bag shotgun was also deployed and discharged during the incident by a member of another agency. Moon was initially transported to St. Joseph Hospital for treatment then transferred to an out of county medical facility. On Thursday, January 6 th, Moon was booked by EPD officers into an out of county correctional facility on his warrant for Attempted Murder of a Peace Officer and Parole Violation.

On Tuesday, January 12th, Moon was booked into the Humboldt County Correctional Facility. It is expected additional charges will be added once the investigation is completed. As is standard protocol, Detective Couch was placed on temporary paid administrative leave on December 31, 2021.

 Following a review of the investigation as it stands at this point, interviews, and a critical incident debrief, Detective Couch was cleared to return to full duty effective January 7, 2022. Pursuant to California Government Code §6254(f)(4), modified by Assembly Bill (AB 748), video and/or audio recordings depicting the discharge of a firearm at a person by a peace officer or custodial officer shall be made public within 45 days of the event by the agency provided the release would not significantly interfere with a criminal or administrative investigation. Detective Couch was wearing his body worn camera, which captured the shooting, and this video will be released in accordance with the above law. ###

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Kimberly Wear

Kimberly Wear is the assistant editor of the North Coast Journal.

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