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Wednesday, December 12 , 2018, 4:05 pm | A Few Clouds 62º


Sheriff’s Department Confirms Suspect Shot Dead Following Chase

Santa Maria officers fatally wound fleeing motorist who allegedly brandished a weapon after CHP spike strip disables his vehicle

At the end of a lengthy high-speed chase Thursday night, Santa Maria police officers shot and killed a motorist who threatened them with a gun that later turned out to be a replica, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.

The suspect was fatally wounded shortly before 7 p.m. at the end of a vehicle pursuit involving Santa Maria police, sheriff’s deputies and the California Highway Patrol, said sheriff’s Lt. Erik Raney.

The incident began about 6:15 p.m. when Santa Maria police dispatchers received a 9-1-1 call that a motorist had brandished a weapon at School and Mill streets, Raney said. A second 9-1-1 caller made a similar report, and Santa Maria officers responded to the area.

A vehicle description was provided, and officers soon located the suspect’s SUV and attempted to make a traffic stop, Raney said.

But the man, whose identity was not released, refused to yield, Raney said, and began a chase that extended around Santa Maria, up Highway 101 to Nipomo, down Division Road to Guadalupe, and eventually to Highway 1 southeast of Santa Maria.

Along the way, personnel from the Sheriff’s Department and the CHP joined in, including a sheriff’s canine unit.

A CHP spike strip deployed near Highway 1 and Black Road deflated all four of the suspect’s tires, and he stopped about 400 yards south of Black Road, Raney said.

(The suspect reportedly had avoided at least one spike strip before he was stopped, according to emergency radio traffic.)

“The suspect then gets out of his car, and has a firearm he brandished at the officers,” Raney said. “They fired on the suspect, striking him, and by the time they got up to him, he was deceased.”

Subsequent investigation revealed the suspect’s firearm was a replica, Raney said.

Raney said the shots were fired by officers from the Santa Maria Police Department, but it is not yet known how many discharged their weapons, how many times each fired, or how many bullets struck the suspect.

He also said it’s not known if the suspect fired his weapon.

No one else was injured in the incident, Raney said, adding that the Sheriff’s Department is investigating the shooting because it occurred in county territory.

“It’s really important for people to understand that, in these incidents, the officers and the deputies who have been involved, they are the victims,” Raney said. “These suspect all have been involved in criminal activity. The officers and deputies tried to apprehend them, and they chose to use deadly force to avoid capture.”

The area around Highway 1 and Black Road remained locked down near midnight Thursday, and Raney said it probably would be closed most of the night while the department’s forensics team and criminal investigators completed their work.

Thursday night’s fatal incident was the sixth officer-involved shooting in Santa Barbara County in recent weeks, and comes just three days after Jose Naveja, 71, of Sebring, Fla., was shot and killed by sheriff’s deputies at the end of a low-speed chase in the Santa Maria Valley.

It also comes a day after Santa Maria Police Chief Danny Macagni was placed on administrative leave as a result of an undisclosed personnel matter.

Monday night’s pursuit ended at Preisker Lane at the north end of Santa Maria, where Naveja sat in his vehicle, and refused to comply with orders from deputies to surrender, sheriff’s Sgt. Mark Williams told Noozhawk..

“They told the subject to throw his guns out the window, and he threw guns out the window,” Williams said. “A short time later, the subject exited the vehicle, and went over and picked up the guns, and that’s when shots were fired.”

Others killed or wounded recently in officer-involved shootings include:

» Michael Paul Ledesma, 18, who was critically wounded when he was shot by a CHP officer during a traffic stop near Los Alamos on July 15.

» Matthew Lyell Berg, 47, of Santa Maria, who was fatally shot by a sheriff’s deputy July 1 near Buellton when he allegedly tried to ram a patrol car after a pursuit on Highway 101.

» Jose Luis Ortega, 22, a wanted parolee armed with a handgun, was shot and killed June 28 during a chase in Santa Maria.

» Lawrence Kitchen, 67, of Lompoc, was fatally wounded by Lompoc police officers June 4 after he shot two people outside a South I Street home.

All of the incidents remain under investigation by law-enforcement agencies.

Check back with Noozhawk for more details on Thursday night’s shooting as they become available.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.



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