Saturday, October 25, 2014

Two Deputies Shot And Killed in California. Suspect Apprehended and In Custody After Multi-County Chase.

Two deputy sheriffs were killed in California yesterday, one in Sacramento, one in Auburn. I was alerted to this news by a friend's email, otherwise I might not have known about it.

The suspect allegedly shot and killed a Sacramento County sheriff's deputy outside a Motel 6 in suburban Sacramento yesterday morning when the deputy approached the suspect's car. The deputy was shot and killed before he could reach the car to ask the occupants what they were doing. The car, containing the shooter and a female passenger sped off. Before they did, the officer's partner opened fire on the car and its occupants, apparently without effect.

According to the Sacramento County sheriff's office, the shooter and his passenger, who may be his wife, then tried to carjack a driver's vehicle a couple of blocks away, but the driver apparently resisted and was shot in the head. They then drove a short distance where they carjacked another vehicle which they drove some distance away to another residential area where they took a gardener's truck at gunpoint -- after detaching the gardener's equipment trailer.

The couple were spotted some distance away at a county park; police were dispatched but the couple had already driven quite a distance farther on, to I-80, which they drove to Auburn, another twenty five miles or so from the scene.

In Auburn, Placer County deputies spotted the truck and pulled it over. As they approached the vehicle, the driver opened fire, killing one deputy and wounding the other. From that point, the story is somewhat confused. Apparently other deputies arrived on the scene and arrested the female passenger while the driver/shooter escaped the scene on foot to a house nearby where he hid for several hours while heavily armed officers patrolled the area searching for him.

They entered the house where he was hiding and arrested him. Apparently he surrendered without incident. He was apparently wounded in Sacramento when the car he was driving at the Motel 6 was initially fired on, but he was not badly injured.

My account is taken from the Sacramento Bee's report of the day's actions. The report is fairly coherent, though it is not at all clear why deputies were approaching a car in the parking lot at the Motel 6 in the first place. The fact that the driver, Marcelo Marquez, was apparently able to kill two deputies, wound another, as well as wounding a civilian, elude capture for hours and yet was apprehended and taken into custody alive and apparently relatively unharmed is... little short of astonishing given the litany of individuals who are killed by police day in and day out all over the country, too often for little or no reason.

Placer County Sheriff Ed Bonner had this to say yesterday:

“The suspect is in custody, as you know,” Bonner said quietly. “I think there’s those people who would say, ‘Well, you know what, I wish you’d killed him.’
“No, that’s not who we are, we are not him. We did our job. I’m incredibly proud of the men and women who go out there every day and put their life on the line, and today this organization, this family, has suffered a horrific loss.”

What he's saying goes against so much routine police dogma and doctrine, however. By contemporary policing standards, every civilian is a potential enemy illegal combatant -- especially if they are brown or black male -- a threat to be neutralized, neutralized with as much force as the officer deems necessary.

But that isn't quite what happened in either Sacramento or Placer County yesterday. A man who was clearly a threat -- who had allegedly killed and wounded officers and a civilian, was pursued and apprehended without killing him or even (apparently) severely wounding him. Civilians in Auburn especially were put through a very difficult situation when schools were locked down and checkpoints established, manned by heavily armed police who seemed to have no problem implicitly threatening them, putting much of downtown Auburn under a hostile occupation.

The questions I would ask about yesterday's events in Sacramento and Auburn start with "Why the difference" between that and, say, almost any of the more than 1,600 police killings since May 1, 2013 -- some of them in Sacramento and Placer Counties. What was it that allowed or required police and sheriff's deputies from city and county agencies throughout the area (one I'm very familiar with having once lived in that general area of Sacramento and Placer Counties for decades) to apprehend the suspects without killing them whereas in so many, many, many instances documented over and over and over again, police use lethal force all but instantly in confrontations with civilians.

What made the difference this time?

I don't know. I have some ideas, but I'll have to think about it a bit more and ask other questions along the way.

There's a followup story in the Bee that's also interesting, pointing out that Marquez and his wife were apparently from the Salt Lake City area, and that there was "nothing unusual" about them.

I would also point out that the killing of law enforcement officers is EXTREMELY RARE in this country, vastly fewer than the number of police killings of civilians. That two were killed and one was wounded yesterday in Sacramento and Auburn is remarkable, especially given that the alleged shooter is still alive, and according to reports is willing to speak with the media -- though he is not being allowed to while the investigation continues.

I grieve for all those killed and wounded yesterday in Sacramento and Auburn. It shouldn't have happened, ideally it wouldn't have. It's remarkable that law enforcement officers were able to apprehend the suspect and his wife/accomplice without using lethal force.

It's a story that needs to be told more fully. There are many lessons to be learned...

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