The Arcata Police Chief Answers Questions About Yesterday’s Officer-Involved Shooting

Tom Chapman

The Arcata Police Department held a press conference today to give us an update on yesterday’s officer-involved shooting.

Let’s start from the beginning.

At 6:43 p.m. yesterday, the Arcata Police Department responded to a gas station on 14th and G Street in Arcata because a man was allegedly drinking an open container of alcohol and swinging a “a wooden stick, kind of similar to a wooden dowel” and a “metal cane”.

“So this gentleman is outside spinning those items in what the clerk described as a ‘ninja fashion’,” Arcata Police Chief Tom Chapman said. “I interpreted that to be, you know, kind of like a martial arts kind of manner.”

Chapman said two officers at the scene tried to “de-escalate the situation.” However, he said the man ended up charging at one of the officers.

“It appears—it was clear—at least to me—it was clear—it looks like he was trying to attack the officer with a metal cane,” Chapman said.

The two officers, who were both males, had a Taser and a gun pointed at the suspect. One officer shot his Taser at the man, which reportedly had no effect on the suspect.

Chapman said that there are a myriad of reasons why a Taser might be ineffective. He said in some cases a person might be wearing thick clothing that doesn’t allow the Taser prongs to make contact with the person’s skin. He said another reason why it may not work can simply be because the shot missed. However, Chapman said he didn’t know the exact reason why the Taser was ineffective in yesterday’s incident.

According to Chapman, the suspect continued to move toward the officer.

“The guy is still coming forward,” Chapman said. “He gets to within an arms length or so, he was almost right on top the officer who ultimately discharges his weapon.”

Chapman said the officer fired four shots, each one striking the suspect. He said two shots hit the suspect in the torso, and the other shots hit the suspect in the right arm and right leg. He said he didn’t know the type of gun the suspect the officer used off the top of his head.

An ambulance arrived at the scene within about a minute to take the suspect away, according to Chapman. He repeated during the press conference that the suspect is in “critical, but stable condition.”

Both of the officers involved in the incident have been placed on administrative leave, which is pretty standard in circumstances like these. Chapman said the identity of the officers will be released in the next day.

According to Chapman, the man who was shot had previous contacts with law enforcement. However, he said those contacts had not been with his department. He did not specify what the prior contacts had been for. The name of the suspect was not released during the conference. However, the press release below states he is 26 years old.

Chapman said yesterday’s shooting was the first officer-involved shooting in Arcata since 1980 that resulted in an injury. He did clarify later in the conference that an officer had fired a gun at an axe-wielding man who allegedly threw that axe at the officer. Chapman estimated that incident happened about a year ago. He said the shot missed.

Chapman said that the shooting is still being investigated by the Humboldt County Critical Incident Response Team. He estimated the team will submit its findings to the District Attorney’s Office in “a couple weeks”.

Here’s the full press release from the Arcata Police Department:

Arcata Police Department APDOn May 17, 2016 at 6:43pm, officers from the Arcata Police Department responded to the corner of 14th and G Streets after a citizen reported a man drinking alcohol from an open container and swinging two sticks in an aggressive manner.

Two APD officers arrived at 6:51pm where they encountered the 26-year-old man at the corner. Civilian witnesses, in-car camera footage from three police cars and surveillance footage confirmed the man was in possession of two weapons, a 3′ long wooden stick, similar to a thick dowel and a metal cane. The man had a weapon in each hand and was aggressively swinging the weapons in a martial arts style.

The man, whose identity will not be released at this time, pending further investigation, refused to drop the weapons as instructed by the police officers. Both officers attempted to verbally de-escalate the situation. However, the man began approaching the police officers while swinging both weapons. Suddenly, the man charged directly at one of the officers while raising the metal cane over his head in an apparent attempt to assault the police officer. One police officer immediately deployed a taser however it had no effect on the charging man.

At 6:54pm, moments after the discharge of the taser, while under attack, a police officer discharged his firearm in rapid succession four times, striking the man. The man sustained one gunshot wound to his right arm, one to his right leg and two gunshot wounds to his torso.

Once the man was subdued, officers began life saving efforts and immediately called for an ambulance. At approximately 6:58pm an ambulance arrived on scene. The man was transported to a local hospital where he underwent surgery. He remains in critical, but stable condition.

The Humboldt County Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) responded to investigate. CIRT is comprised of investigators from the District Attorney’s Office, Sheriff’s Department, Eureka Police Department and Fortuna Police Department.

As is standard protocol, both police officers have been placed on administrative leave. The identity of the involved police officers will be released within the next day.

At the conclusion of the investigation conducted by CIRT, their investigation will be submitted to the Humboldt County District Attorney.

If you want to listen to the full audio of the press conference, here it is. Just a warning, it’s long. The question and answer portion starts at about 9:50 in the audio. Most of the stuff before that is stated in the press release.

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