Emergency

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Sheriff's Office Brings on 'Less Lethal' Bean Bag Shotguns (with Video)

Posted By on Tue, Apr 27, 2021 at 6:50 AM

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office is working to have every patrol car outfitted with shotguns converted to shoot bean bags rounds rather than bullets.

The guns, which were already owned by the department, are being added to an already existing store of less lethal tools already carried by deputies, such as pepper spray and tasers.

“In any critical incident, time and distance is a necessity for the safety of our deputies and the public.  Very rarely, if someone is charging at us, do we get a second chance,” Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal said in a news release. “So, what a less lethal shotgun does is it gives us the ability to have more time and distance between us and the subject we’re trying to communicate with and de-escalate.”

Deputies are in ongoing training on use of the less lethal shotgun and use-of-force options throughout the year, the release states, and will need to recertify each year in order to use the weapons.

The release also notes the sheriff’s office “continues to explore other less lethal options to aid in de-escalation and create safer interactions for both deputies and the community.

“It could be someone that is suicidal, someone that has an edged weapon or some kind of an impact weapon. When we have time and distance, we can talk to them and try to get them to put the weapon down,” Sheriff Honsal said. “But if they decide not to, when they charge toward a citizen or a deputy sheriff, then we have the ability to discharge a less lethal shotgun to try and get compliance with a subject before he gets close enough to hurt someone.”

Read the HCSO release below:

Humboldt County Sheriff’s deputies now have a new tool allowing them more opportunity to de-escalate a situation without the use of lethal force.

Sheriff William Honsal recently enacted a new plan to outfit all Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office patrol cars with less lethal shotguns, firearms that shoot bean bag rounds instead of traditional ammunition. Traditional less lethal tools already carried by deputies, such as a baton, taser and OC spray, require a close range for successful use, increasing danger and decreasing time for de-escalation. While sheriff’s deputies in supervisory roles already carried less lethal projectile devices, the expansion of the tool to all patrol staff gives deputies an immediate option for de-escalation.

“In any critical incident, time and distance is a necessity for the safety of our deputies and the public.  Very rarely if someone is charging at us do we get a second chance,” Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal said. “So, what a less lethal shotgun does is it gives us the ability to have more time and distance between us and the subject we’re trying to communicate with and de-escalate.”

While the less lethal shotguns are a “new” tool, they are not a new purchase. The shotguns are actually the Remington 870 shotguns previously carried in deputy patrol cars, however, they have been repurposed to discharge bean bag rounds instead of traditional ammunition.

“It doesn’t cost the county a whole lot of money to repurpose the old patrol shotguns. They fit in the same mounts in all the patrol vehicles,” Sheriff Honsal said. “We have painted the buttstock and foregrip orange and there will only be less lethal rounds carried with the shotgun in the patrol cars. So, we’re doing this for really next to nothing and equipping every one of our deputies with an option for less lethal force.”

Sheriff Honsal says the use of the less-lethal shotgun is situational, as each incident requiring de-escalation is unique. Deputies have received training on de-escalation and crisis intervention, but Sheriff Honsal says the choice to de-escalate is ultimately that of the person in crisis. If other traditional de-escalation techniques fail, the less lethal firearm can assist in gaining compliance before the situation escalates further.

“It could be someone that is suicidal, someone that has an edged weapon or some kind of an impact weapon. When we have time and distance, we can talk to them and try to get them to put the weapon down,” Sheriff Honsal said. “But if they decide not to, when they charge toward a citizen or a deputy sheriff, then we have the ability to discharge a less lethal shotgun to try and get compliance with a subject before he gets close enough to hurt someone.”

Deputies have and will continue to receive training on the less lethal shotgun and force options throughout the year. They will be required to qualify with it once a year to ensure they are able to appropriately deploy the bean bag rounds when reasonable to do so. In addition to the new tool, the Sheriff’s Office continues to explore other less lethal options to aid in de-escalation and create safer interactions for both deputies and the community.

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Monday, April 19, 2021

UPDATE: Fires in Bald Hills Area Contained but Large Amounts of Forest Fuel Still Burning

Posted By on Mon, Apr 19, 2021 at 1:15 PM

Two small fires are burning in the Bald Hills area. - CALFIRE
  • CalFire
  • Two small fires are burning in the Bald Hills area.
UPDATE:

Two fires burning in the Bald Hills area have been contained, according to CalFire, with “significant work ahead to extinguish burning of large amounts of forest fuel material.”

One of the Lyons Fires is about 4 acres and the other is approximately 1 acre.

PREVIOUS:

Two small vegetation fires are burning in the Bald Hills area, with forward progress stopped on one while the other is “spreading at a moderate rate,” according to CalFire.

The fire that is still spreading is approximately 2 acres.

Resources on scene include five fire engines, two crews, a bull dozer, four water tender and a helicopter, according to the news release. The cause of the fires remains under investigation.
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Friday, April 2, 2021

Three Rescued from Trinity River

Posted By on Fri, Apr 2, 2021 at 2:10 PM

Three Arcata residents drawn to the Trinity River by warm temperatures this week were rescued at the Big Rock Day Use area after they became trapped on a rock.

A Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office deputy responded around 4:45 p.m. Wednesday to a report of swimmers in distress and spotted the individuals on the rock in the water, according to a HCSO news release.

“The deputy retrieved his department-issued water rescue gear, and with the help of additional community members on scene, the deputy deployed the rescue equipment and brought all three of the subjects safely to shore,” the release states.

The sheriff’s office cautions those tempted to make their way back to local rivers as the mercury begins to rise that many are still running high, swift and cold, especially this early in spring.

The new release also offered these safety tips:
  • Be sure to check river levels and flow information with the National Weather Service, in addition to water release information for the Trinity River.
  • Never swim alone.
  • Avoid swimming into a fast-moving current.
  • If the current seems too strong, get out of the water.
  • Don’t consume alcohol while swimming.
  • Inflatable water toys should not be used in place of a life jacket.
  • Young children should wear a life jacket when swimming in the river.
  • Watch children at all times.
  • If you are not a strong swimmer, do not swim in the river. Instead, enjoy from the shore.

Read the full HCSO release below:
On March 31, 2021, at about 4:45 p.m., a Humboldt County Sheriff’s deputy assigned to the Trinity River Division was contacted regarding multiple swimmers in distress at the Big Rock river access in Willow Creek.

The deputy arrived on scene and observed three people stuck on a rock in the river. The deputy retrieved his department-issued water rescue gear, and with the help of additional community members on scene, the deputy deployed the rescue equipment and brought all three of the subjects safely to shore.

The deputy later learned the subjects were from the Arcata area and had decided to go for a swim in the river due to the nice weather.

The Sheriff’s Office would like to thank the community members who assisted our deputy in bringing the subjects to safety.

While the weather is getting warmer throughout Humboldt County, the Sheriff’s Office would like to remind the public that it is still too early to swim in some of our local rivers, including the Trinity River, due to high water levels and swift currents.

If you do decide to swim in the local rivers this summer, the Sheriff’s Office offers some safety tips:
  • Be sure to check river levels and flow information with the National Weather Service, in addition to water release information for the Trinity River.
  • Never swim alone.
  • Avoid swimming into a fast-moving current. If the current seems too strong, get out of the water.
  • Don’t consume alcohol while swimming.
  • Inflatable water toys should not be used in place of a life jacket.
  • Young children should wear a life jacket when swimming in the river. Watch children at all times.
  • If you are not a strong swimmer, do not swim in the river. Instead, enjoy from the shore.
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Sunday, March 28, 2021

It's Going to Get Gusty: Gale Force Winds Expected

Posted By on Sun, Mar 28, 2021 at 1:19 PM

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A small craft advisory will be in effect starting at 11 p.m. today and a gale warning starting at 3 a.m. Monday for what are expected to be rough conditions off the coast.

The National Weather Service office in Eureka is forecasting that a cold front will make its way across coastal waters tonight with winds that will "abruptly strengthen out of the north."

The small craft advisory, which runs through 3 a.m., is followed by the gale warning, which cover areas from Point St. George to Cape Mendocino, with wind gusts picking up to 40 mph, including gusts of up to 50 mph, and seas at 10 to 15 feet.

"Strong winds will cause hazardous seas which could capsize or damage vessels and reduce visibility," the NWS warning states.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Tsunami Warning Test on Wednesday

Posted By on Wed, Mar 24, 2021 at 10:02 AM

The annual Tsunami Warning Communications Test takes place Wednesday between 11 a.m. and noon, with sirens, a Civil Air Patrol flyover, alerts and notifications via NOAA weather radio as well as local TV and radio.

An annual coordinated effort between between the National Weather Service, local tribal governments, Caltrans District 1, the Civil Air Patrol and the emergency services offices of the state as well as the counties of Humboldt, Del Norte and Mendocino, the test is designed to check the workings of the electronic communications system used when a tsunami warning is issued for the region.

The California Geological Survey recently issued updated Tsunami Hazard maps for the counties of Del Norte, Humboldt and Mendocino, which can be found here.


Read the Del Norte County OES release below:
The County of Del Norte Office of Emergency Services, in collaboration with the National Weather Service and California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, and along with Humboldt and Mendocino counties, will participate in a test of the tsunami warning communication system on March 24, 2021. Citizens who have a home, business, or school address within the tsunami hazard area and who are registered for Community Alerts can expect to receive a notification at approximately 10:00am. Additional notifications will be delivered between 11:00am – 12:00pm via outdoor sirens, NOAA weather radio, local TV and radio, and civil air patrol flyover. This annual test is an important part of local and regional emergency preparedness. Tests are routinely conducted to ensure that notification systems perform as expected. If any failures are identified emergency officials will then work to address those failures. These tests also serve as a reminder to the public to review their own personal preparedness plans. Citizens are encouraged to take the following personal preparedness steps this week in advance of the test:
 Ensure that you are signed up for Community Alerts. If you have already signed up, please review your account to ensure that all information is updated and accurate. You may do this by visiting preparedelnorte.com and clicking on the appropriate button in the upper right hand corner or by calling 707.464.7255 if you need assistance.
 Check your tsunami hazard zone status. New tsunami hazard area maps were recently released and there have been some changes. You can visit preparedelnorte.com, click “prepare” at the top of the page, then choose “tsunami” to find out whether or not you are in the zone.
 Have a conversation. Review evacuation and reunification plans with your family and at your workplace. Find tips for creating a plan at Ready.gov. We thank the community for your continued efforts to strengthen the resilience of our community. Please feel free to provide any feedback about the test by calling our office at 707.464.7255.
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Thursday, March 11, 2021

10 Years Later: The Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami

Posted By on Thu, Mar 11, 2021 at 10:17 AM

A damaged dock at the Crescent City Harbor after the March 11, 2011 tsunami generated by a devastating earthquake in Japan. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • A damaged dock at the Crescent City Harbor after the March 11, 2011 tsunami generated by a devastating earthquake in Japan.
One decade ago, after the Tohoku earthquake and resulting tsunami devastated a wide swath of Japan’s Pacific coast, Futoshi Toba — the mayor of Rikuzentakata — sent out a haunting message to the world: ”We do not want to be forgotten. This is our hope.”

His city was one of the hardest hit as waves up to 62-feet high swept through the port town. Nearly 2,000 men, women and children — almost one in 10 of Rikuzentakata’s residents— were killed on March 11, 2011, including Toba’s wife. More than 3,300 buildings there were completely or partially destroyed. The city’s center was swept into the sea.

Across Japan, the loss was unfathomable: Nearly 16,000 died, more than 6,000 were wounded, whole communities were destroyed and thousands went missing.

About 10 hours later, waves generated by the same earthquake traveled nearly 5,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean to reach the Crescent City Harbor. While most of the Del Norte County-based fishing fleet was able to leave in the early morning hours before the surges hit, 35 boats were crushed and many of the docks were swept away, leaving behind $20 million in damage.

Last to leave was the fishing vessel Amanda B in a daring— and life-threatening — run.

“It was a white-knuckle experience getting out,” fisherman Alan Mello recalled in a video testimonial, one of several put together by the Redwood Coast Tsunami Work Group on a website dedicated to marking the somber anniversary. “Not one of the brighter things I’ve ever done in my years of fishing."

(Read the Journal’s March 31, 2011 story, “Last Man Out” and see video of the frightening ride caught on camera by a Coast Guard helicopter here.)

Crescent City, with its own history of destructive tsunamis, was otherwise spared.

For the most part, other areas of the North Coast were also largely left unscathed, in part because the tsunami arrived during low tide. One person, 25-year-old Dustin Douglas Weber, was killed after being swept into the ocean near the mouth of the Klamath River.

Two years later, in April of 2013, a 21-foot panga boat covered in barnacles washed ashore just south of Crescent City with “Takata High School” handwritten in Japanese characters.

It was from Rikuzentakata and became the first documented piece of tsunami debris to reach California’s shores.

The discovery of the skiff,  called "Kamome," soon forged an international bridge between the two cities, leading to a sister-school exchange between Takata High School and Del Norte High School as well as a sister-city relationship between Crescent City and Rikuzentakata that continues to this day.

"A decade marks an important milestone after a disaster and provides a moment of attention to not only look back but also to focus on tsunami awareness and how better to protect ourselves before the next tsunami hits,” geophysicist Lori Dengler, a Humboldt State University professor emeritus and tsunami expert, says in a news release about the Redwood Coast Tsunami Working Group project to commemorate the March 11, 2011 event.

Ten years later, Toba is still mayor of Rikuzentakata, a place forever altered by the geological forces unleashed on that fateful day. In a March of 2019 Japan Today article, he recalled "how it was first time in my life I knew what true despair was."

"I evacuated to the roof of the town hall and watched as the city was swallowed up, wave by wave. People were clinging to rooftops, cars, lumber — whatever they could grab on to — and screaming and calling out for help. All I could do was yell to them, 'Hang on! Hang on! Don’t let go!' But I knew they wouldn’t survive," he said. "It was like a horror movie. I didn’t know immediately, but my wife was one of those who died. Her body was found a few weeks later. I became mayor, a widower and a single father all within six weeks. No one can possibly prepare for a major life shift such as this. My life changed forever. Everything changed."

In a message marking the approach of the 10-year anniversary, Toba offered his condolences to the quake's victims and those still searching for answers about the fate of their loved ones. He also expressed gratitude to those from around the world and in Japan who have offered their support to Rikuzentakata, which continues to rebuild.

"We will work together with the citizens to realize; 'Rikuzentakata, a city full of dreams, hopes and love that will lead to the next generation, a city of symbiosis and interaction,' where you can live in your own way while staying close to the feelings of the citizens," he wrote. "We look forward to your continued support."

One way to help those impacted in Japan is by purchasing "Tomo: Friendship Through Fiction: An Anthology of Japan Teen Stories," which includes a contribution from Journal arts and features editor Jennifer Fumiko Cahill, who was living in Japan with her family when the quake hit. Find more information here and here.
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Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Fire Destroys McKinleyville Home, Battalion Chief Says Station Closure Hampered Response

Posted By on Wed, Mar 10, 2021 at 7:21 AM

The fire on Babler Road in McKinleyville. - ARCATA FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT
  • Arcata Fire Protection District
  • The fire on Babler Road in McKinleyville.
A Mckinleyville home was destroyed in a house fire last night, with the Arcata Fire Protection District reporting that its firefighting efforts were hampered by rotating station closures necessitated by budget cuts after a tax measure failed last year.

A fire crew and chief officer dispatched from the McKinleyville station to the 1700 block of Babler Road at 6:45 p.m. and arrived within four minutes to find a single-family home 50 percent engulfed in fire. They quickly confirmed the occupants made it out of the house safely and began a defensive attack on the fire but ran out of water and had to wait for an engine from the Arcata station to arrive "a few minutes later" to establish a line to a nearby hydrant and resume firefighting efforts.

Ultimately, additional resources from Fieldbrook, Westhaven, CalFire and Blue Lake all responded and the fire was brought under control.

The home sustained an estimated $492,403 in damage, according to a press release, and the family's dog perished in the blaze.

Battalion Chief Sean Campbell said in the release that the rotation closures of the district's stations necessitated by the failure of Measure R at the polls last year delayed the fire response. While Measure F — an identical tax measure — passed in November, the district won't begin receiving funding from it until 2022.

"Our second engine came from the Arcata station, which is 10 minutes away," Campbell said in the release. "This is a result of our temporary rotating station closures. The 10-minute delay is one reason we were not able to secure a water supply quickly. We are looking forward to getting our third station opened in 2022 when we receive our Measure F funding."

See the Arcata Fire press release here and additional photos below:

Continue reading »

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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Police Make DUI Arrest After Fatal Crash

Posted By on Wed, Mar 3, 2021 at 9:51 AM

chp.jpg
The California Highway Patrol has arrested a 31-year-old on suspicion of felony driving under the influence after a fatal head-on collision on State Route 36 Saturday left a 61-year-old Blocksburg man dead, according to a press release.

Police report that Andrew Harmon was driving a Dodge 3500 eastbound on State Route 36 near mile post marker 15.5 when for unknown reasons it drifted across the center lines and collided head-on with a 2006 BMW driven by Marc Broussard. Broussard and his passenger, Kaylem Branson, 51, were transported with major injuries to St. Joseph Hospital, where Broussard died hours later.

Harmon allegedly left the scene of the crash prior to officers' arrival but was tracked down and arrested in Rio Dell.

The CHP asks anyone with information about this crash to call 822-5981.

See the full CHP press release here.
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Friday, February 26, 2021

DA Clears EPD Officers in Fatal Shooting

Posted By on Fri, Feb 26, 2021 at 4:32 PM

MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
Humboldt County District Attorney Maggie Fleming has concluded the Eureka Police Department officers involved in the fatal shooting of a 51-year-old Eureka man last summer were justified in their actions.

John Karl Sieger, a military veteran, was reportedly intoxicated and suicidal when he raised a pistol at officers during a tense standoff at a home on the 2800 block of Lowell Street last year.

“Once Mr. Sieger refused their commands and pointed his gun at them, the officers reasonably believed they were in imminent danger of being killed or suffering great bodily injury," the DA's Office release states.  "The District Attorney has notified Mr. Sieger’s family of her decision."

In the news release, the district attorney’s office outlines a detail account of how the events unfolded on the evening of July 23, 2020.

Earlier this month, a Use of Force/Shooting Review Board called by Eureka Police Chief Steve Watson found officers performed properly at the scene.

The district attorney's release noted the situation "illustrates the difficult decisions that often must be made in cases involving persons dealing with mental health issues."

"The District Attorney appreciates that EPD’s efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution included quickly involving a mental health expert, and the rapid response of the mental health expert to a crisis situation," the release states.

Read the full release below:
DA Maggie Fleming has completed her review of the investigation regarding the Eureka Police Department (EPD) Officer involved shooting of 51-year-old John Karl Sieger on July 23, 2020. A Humboldt County Critical Incident Team, with members from EPD, the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office, Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department, Arcata Police Department, California Highway Patrol, and Fortuna Police Department, conducted the investigation.  The Humboldt County Coroner’s Office and the California Department of Justice – Bureau of Forensic Services provided additional investigative resources.

The investigation revealed that shortly after 5:00 pm on July 23rd, an out-of-county friend of Mr. Sieger called EPD to request a check on his welfare, because she had received texts indicating he was contemplating suicide.  Mr. Sieger’s messages to his friend initially included photos of bottles of alcohol; a subsequent message sent just before 4 pm included the same bottles with a hand gun.  After the friend sent a text telling Mr. Sieger she was worried and asking him to be safe, he replied that he “can’t” be safe and that he was done with his life.  She asked him by text to go find help and then asked where he was.  When he questioned why that mattered, she replied she was going to call EPD to come check on him.  She then called EPD at 5:16 pm. 

At 5:19 pm, EPD Officers Wilson and Huffman responded to a request for a check on Mr. Sieger’s welfare from EPD dispatch; Sergeant Omey and Officers Endsley and Christiansen followed shortly thereafter.  While traveling to Mr. Sieger’s home on Lowell Street in Eureka, officers requested information about Sieger from dispatch.  Once at the scene, officers sought information on who else might be in the home.  During this time, Mr. Sieger’s friend remained on the line with EPD and continued to share information she was receiving from Mr. Sieger.  Sergeant Omey attempted to reach Mr. Sieger by phone at 5:43 and did reach him when he tried again at 5:46, but Mr. Sieger quickly ended the call.  Officers on scene requested that dispatch notify neighbors to shelter in place.   At 5:49 pm, while maintaining positions outside Mr. Sieger’s house, EPD requested a mental health expert on scene. At about the same time, Mr. Sieger texted the friend: “You called EPD? wtf?” 

At approximately 6:20 pm, a mental health clinician and additional EPD officers arrived on scene and the search for information on Mr. Sieger via online databases and social media continued.  A few minutes after the clinician’s arrival, the friend received a text from Mr. Sieger: “If they see me I will shoot them.”  Using information uncovered about Mr. Sieger’s family, the mental health clinician contacted one of Mr. Sieger’s sons, who lived out of county and had not spoken to his dad that day.  Officers also contacted Mr. Sieger’s sister, who let them know he lived with his wife and younger son.  She also said she had received a text earlier that day indicating a personal matter  could be affecting Mr. Sieger’s mental state.  When his sister contacted Mr. Sieger to ask if he was OK, he responded, “I am not.”  At that point the sister said she would come to the home to assist.  EPD was able to contact Mr. Sieger’s wife and son inside the home and both exited the house to safety at 6:54 pm.  They both were aware that Mr. Sieger was in the backyard but were not aware that he was suicidal.  Mr. Sieger’s wife noted he had been drinking all day. 

At 6:56 pm the friend texted Mr. Sieger that she only called the police because she couldn’t come check on him.  He replied she did not need to ever think of him again and at 7:00 pm he texted her, “I respect cops and don’t force me to kill any of them.” The friend continued to send text messages pleading with Mr. Sieger to talk with those present and told him a crisis counselor was there.

Shortly before 7:30 pm, one of the officers contacted a next-door neighbor to ask if the view from an upstairs window looked down into Mr. Sieger’s backyard.  That neighbor allowed the officer to take a position in their house which provided a partial view of Mr. Sieger’s backyard. 

About 7:30 pm, after speaking with Mr. Sieger’s sister, the mental health clinician contacted Eureka Veteran’s Affairs and learned Mr. Sieger was a client, last seen for mental health issues in September 2019.   At 7:42 pm, the mental health clinician sent a text to Mr. Sieger introducing herself and letting him know she wanted to try to help.  He responded 2 minutes later: “There isn’t an out for me and I know this.  Please don’t corner me.  I won’t call anyone.”  At 7:46 pm the clinician let him know no one wanted to corner him but simply wanted to help and listen.  He replied at 7:48 pm, “I apologize for this but I am simply done.  My life was set as f——d years ago.”   The officer observing from the upstairs room could see Mr. Sieger holding something in his hand but could not identify the item.

Within 1 minute of that text, officers heard three loud pops which they recognized as gunfire.  Shortly after the clinician sent a text asking Mr. Sieger to explain the shots, he replied he wanted to prove he needed to be left alone and asked her to stop texting him.  The officer in the upstairs window could see Mr. Sieger at this point and confirmed his possession of a handgun.   

At 8:23 pm, Mr. Sieger looked over the top of the fence at EPD officers.  The officer in the upstairs window announced that Mr. Sieger was coming out and the back gate opened.  Mr. Sieger initially paused, but then stepped out into the alley.  The recording from an EPD body-worn device documented officers shouting, “show us your hands,” and “gun!”  In response to the officers’ commands, Mr. Sieger yelled back, “No, f—- you.”  Immediately following the verbal exchange between officers and Mr. Sieger, video from an EPD body-worn camera showed Mr. Sieger raising his right hand, pointing a handgun directly at the officers.

In response to Mr. Sieger pointing his handgun at the officers, Officers Endsley, Bishop, Wilson, and Sgt. Omey fired their weapons at Mr. Sieger.  Mr. Sieger was struck by gunfire and fell to the ground.  Officers immediately approached Mr. Sieger and began lifesaving efforts including CPR.  Medical personnel present and Humboldt Bay Fire personnel continued with the lifesaving efforts, and transported Mr. Sieger to St. Joseph Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 8:47 pm. 

Officers recovered a .40 caliber Glock pistol loaded with 7 rounds of ammunition where Mr. Sieger fell to the ground.  The serial number from the Glock matched the serial number of the firearm in the photograph Mr. Sieger sent to his friend earlier in the day.  Officers also recovered three .40 caliber shell casings in Mr. Sieger’s backyard, consistent with the report of three shots heard by law enforcement. 

An autopsy by Dr. Super on July 28 revealed wound paths consistent with four officers firing from separate locations.

The California Penal Code addresses justifiable homicide at Section 196:

Homicide is justifiable when committed by peace officers and those acting by their command in their aid and assistance, under either of the following circumstances:

(a)In obedience to any judgment of a competent court.

(b)When the homicide results from a peace officer’s use of force that is in compliance with Section 835a.

The California State Legislature made significant additions to Section 835a in 2019 (Assembly Bill 392).  It now states:

Section 835a. Reasonable force to effect arrest; Resistance

(a)The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:

(1)That the authority to use physical force, conferred on peace officers by this section, is a serious responsibility that shall be exercised judiciously and with respect for human rights and dignity and for the sanctity of every human life. The Legislature further finds and declares that every person has a right to be free from excessive use of force by officers acting under color of law.

(2)As set forth below, it is the intent of the Legislature that peace officers use deadly force only when necessary in defense of human life. In determining whether deadly force is necessary, officers shall evaluate each situation in light of the particular circumstances of each case, and shall use other available resources and techniques if reasonably safe and feasible to an objectively reasonable officer.

(3)That the decision by a peace officer to use force shall be evaluated carefully and thoroughly, in a manner that reflects the gravity of that authority and the serious consequences of the use of force by peace officers, in order to ensure that officers use force consistent with law and agency policies.

(4)That the decision by a peace officer to use force shall be evaluated from the perspective of a reasonable officer in the same situation, based on the totality of the circumstances known to or  perceived by the officer at the time, rather than with the benefit of hindsight, and that the totality of the circumstances shall account for occasions when officers may be forced to make quick judgments about using force.

(5)That individuals with physical, mental health, developmental, or intellectual disabilities are significantly more likely to experience greater levels of physical force during police interactions, as their disability may affect their ability to understand or comply with commands from peace officers. It is estimated that individuals with disabilities are involved in between one-third and one-half of all fatal encounters with law enforcement.

(b)Any peace officer who has reasonable cause to believe that the person to be arrested has committed a public offense may use objectively reasonable force to effect the arrest, to prevent escape, or to overcome resistance.

(c)(1)Notwithstanding subdivision (b), a peace officer is justified in using deadly force upon another person only when the officer reasonably believes, based on the totality of the circumstances, that such force is necessary for either of the following reasons:

(A)To defend against an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to the officer or to another person.

(B)To apprehend a fleeing person for any felony that threatened or resulted in death or serious bodily injury, if the officer reasonably believes that the person will cause death or serious bodily injury to another unless immediately apprehended. Where feasible, a peace officer shall, prior to the use of force, make reasonable efforts to identify themselves as a peace officer and to warn that deadly force may be used, unless the officer has objectively reasonable grounds to believe the person is aware of those facts.

(2)A peace officer shall not use deadly force against a person based on the danger that person poses to themselves, if an objectively reasonable officer would believe the person does not pose an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to the peace officer or to another person.

(d)A peace officer who makes or attempts to make an arrest need not retreat or desist from their efforts by reason of the resistance or threatened resistance of the person being arrested. A peace officer shall not be deemed an aggressor or lose the right to self-defense by the use of objectively reasonable force in compliance with subdivisions (b) and (c) to effect the arrest or to prevent escape or to overcome resistance. For the purposes of this subdivision, “retreat” does not mean tactical repositioning or other de-escalation tactics.

(e)For purposes of this section, the following definitions shall apply:

(1)“Deadly force” means any use of force that creates a substantial risk of causing death or serious bodily injury, including, but not limited to, the discharge of a firearm.

(2)A threat of death or serious bodily injury is “imminent” when, based on the totality of the circumstances, a reasonable officer in the same situation would believe that a person has the present ability, opportunity, and apparent intent to immediately cause death or serious bodily injury to the peace officer or another person. An imminent harm is not merely a fear of future harm, no matter how great the fear and no matter how great the likelihood of the harm, but is one that, from appearances, must be instantly confronted and addressed.

(3)“Totality of the circumstances” means all facts known to the peace officer at the time, including the conduct of the officer and the subject leading up to the use of deadly force.

The District Attorney has concluded the shooting was legally justified, because the officers’ actions complied with California Penal Code Section 835a.  Once Mr. Sieger refused their commands and pointed his gun at them, the officers reasonably believed they were in imminent danger of being killed or suffering great bodily injury. The District Attorney has notified Mr. Sieger’s family of her decision.

This case illustrates the difficult decisions that often must be made in cases involving persons dealing with mental health issues.  When law enforcement can reasonably assume that others are not in danger, they can exercise the option to disengage from a person struggling with mental health issues.  The investigation of this case revealed that EPD personnel were considering that option – until Mr. Sieger discharged his firearm in the backyard.  At that point, given Mr. Sieger's mental state and proximity to neighbors, the safety of others could not be assured and EPD remained on scene, while continuously attempting to peacefully resolve the situation.  The District Attorney appreciates that EPD’s efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution included quickly involving a mental health expert, and the rapid response of the mental health expert to a crisis situation. 
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Monday, February 22, 2021

UPDATE: 101 Reopened at Last Chance

Posted By on Mon, Feb 22, 2021 at 10:54 AM

UPDATE:

U.S. Highway 101 at Last Chance Grade in Del Norte County has reopened to one-way, controlled traffic. Motorist should expected one-hour delays, according to Caltrans.

PREVIOUS:

The reopening of U.S. Highway 101 at Last Chance Grade just south of Crescent City after being closed for several days, which was slated for 10 a.m. is still expected to happen soon, according to a Caltrans spokesperson at 10:45 a.m.

The small stretch that act as an important corridor between the most northern reaches of California and the rest of the state as been plagued by landslide since it first opened as a wagon trail. The current plan is for the roadway to be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today unless slide activity resumes.

For the latest road information, the Caltrans quick map site here
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