Night Watchman Admitted Pointing Gun at Officers, Says Sheriff Billy Honsal

Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsa

Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal give the timeline of the events leading to an officer involved shooting on the Martin’s Ferry Bridge last Friday.

George Robbins

The booking photo of George Robbins.

George Robbins, the night watchman for Kapel Construction that was shot at by deputies on Friday near the Martins Ferry Bridge, said that he had pointed a gun at the officers first, according to statements made by Humboldt County Sheriff Billy Honsal in a press conference this morning.

The press conference stemmed from an incident Friday night just before 10 p.m. when deputies encountered a Chevy Corvette occupied by Robbins.

According to Honsal, a Corporal Max Soeth and new deputy Nathan Cumbow approached the vehicle in their patrol car. Honsal said that the suspect later told officers that he thought the [officers’] vehicle contained his cousin playing a joke on him and Robbins, who does not have a license to carry a firearm, pointed a 44. caliber Ruger handgun at the officers’ vehicle.

Billy Honsal holding a gun

Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal holds up a gun similar to the one the suspect is accused of pointing at Sheriff’s Deputies on the Martin’s Ferry Bridge.

The officers then fired a total of 22 rounds, according to Honsal. Cumbow, on the job for four weeks, fired 16 rounds (a whole clip.) fired six rounds.  Soeth fired six 16 (a whole clip magazine). The gun belonging to Robbins had two spent rounds in it, according to Honsal, but he isn’t sure when the rounds from Robbins’ gun were fired. They may have been fired prior to the incident.

Vehicle positions in crime scene

This shows the scene on Martins Ferry Bridge. The car furthest to the left contained Deputy Tismil Matilton who is not believed to have shot a weapon but is still on leave with the other two officers. [Image provided by the Sheriff’s Office–Open link in a new tab or zoom to see the details.]

Lt. Michael Fridley of the Sheriff’s Office, when reached by phone later, told us that concerns by residents of the Yurok lands that officers rarely patrol their area so they didn’t recognize Robbins’ vehicle as belonging to a regular security officer was “fair.” He added, “We do not go [there] very often.”

He then went on to explain that the new deputies hired with Measure Z money will be used for more patrols. In fact, he said, Cumbow was being taken on a training ride that night. He was learning the area, Fridley said. “He’s most likely going to be assigned to the area [eventually.]”

Fridley said that everyone was very lucky that Robbins hadn’t been seriously hurt.

“In the end, when someone points a gun at you, you have to react,” Lt. Michael Fridley of the Sheriff’s Office told us later.

After the press conference, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office released the following information:

On July 14, 2017, at approximately 2157 hours, 3 Deputies with the Sheriff’s Office were on patrol in two marked patrol vehicles in the area Highway 169 North of Weitchpec. The deputies were in full Sheriff’s Office patrol uniforms driving marked patrol vehicles.

As the deputies turned from HWY 169 to Martin Ferry Bridge they observed a vehicle on the left side of the roadway facing them.

Drawing of a bridge and vehicles

Drawing of the incident site on Martins Ferry Bridge. According to Lt. Fridley, Robbins in the black Corvette parked facing Hwy 169 in order to watch equipment that was stored approximately where the green area is on the image.

The vehicle was stopped in the roadway and the parking lights appeared to be on. The suspicious vehicle was illuminated with the patrol car spot lights and headlights.

Lights from the officers’ vehicle shown at the Corvette. 

As the patrol vehicle was slowing down within 2 car lengths, the passenger side Corporal, Max Soeth, observed the solo occupant of the vehicle, point a firearm at his direction. Corporal Soeth yelled “Gun” and the Deputy Cumbow immediately stopped the vehicle and put the patrol car in park.

Corporal Soeth exited the patrol vehicle and retreated to a position of cover, as he was removing his firearm.

Corporal Soeth yelled “Sheriff’s Office, show me your hands!” He looked over his passenger side door and observed the driver pointing the gun in his direction. Corporal Soeth then fired his weapon because he was in fear of his life and the life of his partner.

Deputy Cumbow, advised he heard Corporal Soeth yell “Gun.” He observed the driver pointing a handgun at him. He put the car in park and removed his seatbelt as he exited the patrol car. Deputy Cumbow then exited the patrol car and shot at the driver in fear for his life.

A total of 22 rounds were fired.

Corporal Soeth again yelled at the driver to show his hands.

The driver immediately put up his hands and exited the car. The driver was identified as George Robbins from Hoopa, CA. He was taken into custody without further incident.

A .44 caliber Ruger handgun was discovered in the vehicle. The handgun was loaded with 6 rounds and 2 were spent shell casings in the cylinder.

Mr. Robbins sustained an injury to his face and to the back side of his left shoulder. All wounds were minor. He was seen by paramedics at the scene and turned over to Law Enforcement.

He was subsequently transported to a local hospital for treatment. While at the hospital he was interviewed by members of the Humboldt County Critical Incident Response Team. Mr. Robbins advised he was working as a Security Guard in that area of Martin Ferry Bridge. His job was to watch over the construction equipment that was staged on HWY 169. Mr. Robbins was armed with a handgun that was loaned to him by a friend.

Mr. Robbins observed a vehicle approaching him on the bridge and he couldn’t see the occupants because of the headlights. He then reached back behind the seat, where the firearm was stored, and he brought the handgun to the dash and pointed it at the approaching vehicle. He believed the vehicle was just his “cousin messing with him.” He didn’t realize it was the Sheriff’s office until the gun fire erupted.

He ducked down and waited for the gunfire to stop then he gave up. Mr. Robbins claimed he did not fire a round at the deputy sheriffs.

Mr. Robbins was booked into county jail for brandishing a loaded firearm at a peace officer. Mr. Robbins did not have a license to carry a loaded firearm in public or in a vehicle and he did not possess a concealed weapons permit with the county.

Mr. Robbins Construction Company was contacted and they advised he was not supposed to be armed in the course of his security detail.

At the conclusion of the investigations, charges will be requested with the District Attorney for carrying a loaded firearm in a vehicle and brandishing a firearm at a Peace Officer.

This case is still under the investigation with the Humboldt County Critical Incident Response Team. Members of the Eureka PD, Arcata PD, Humboldt County sheriff’s Office, District Attorney and State DOJ Criminologist are actively investigating the case. The Deputy Sheriff’s involved are placed on administrative leave pending the investigation.

Anyone with information for the Sheriff’s Office regarding this case or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Sheriff’s Office at 707-445-7251 or the Sheriff’s Office Crime Tip line at 707-268-2539.

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44 comments

  • Taurus Ballzhoff

    Amazing Robbins was not killed. Caution is advised if pulling guns around LEOs…

  • I knew there had to be a reason for the cops to shoot him .word to the wise don’t draw down on the poe poe. not to smart .

  • Well there you have it, if you pint a gun at somebody be prepared to get shot, especially if it’s a police officer.

  • Patti McCovey, who’s racist now [edit]?

    LEO – 1

    [edit] Liberals – 0

    • Triniboldticino

      Yeah. 16 rounds. Pile a clip into ’em and let God sort it out. Those are the type of fearful little pansies you want to “serve and protect.” Boy, have things changed over the last 50 years. I used to respect police. Now I tell my family to avoid them like the plague. Stay legal, don’t break laws, but do NOT depend on trigger happy children to “protect and serve.” Especially those bearing AR’s and 17 round Glocks.

  • Lake County Not So Bad

    I just love it when the facts of a story come out and all the armchair idiots are made to look like, idiots. George, you are one very lucky man to still be alive. Use the remainder of your life wisely.

  • Yep. It’s amazing when the FACTS come out. Mention that to all the other group who are absolutely sure about the chain of events in a recent stabbing in Arcata. WAIT FOR THE FACTS. The truth shall set you free.

    • Oh really? Since you know so much, WTF is law enforcement doing emptying​ a clip into a car that doesn’t fire one returning shot?
      Why o why?
      LE is 100% out of control in this country and Humboldt county is no exception!
      People do dumb shit, the penalty doesn’t need to be death.

  • shawn the fisherman

    Another idiot with a gun! So lucky hes not dead. Wanted to point his gun at his cousin? WTF? Hope his cousin hears this and kicks his ass! I know I would.

  • “Honsal said that the suspect later told officers that he thought the vehicle contained his cousin playing a joke on him and Robbins, who does not have a license to carry a firearm, pointed a 44. caliber Ruger handgun at the officers’ vehicle.”

    This makes it sound as if there was two people in Robbins’ car. That was NOT the case. It was only George and his Pomeranian, Baby.

    Then Honsal says, Cumbow will eventually patrol the Yurok Reservation where he SHOT a tribal member? You don’t just yell “gun” and start shooting! You still have to say who you are, there are tribal members that go hunting at night, so does that mean anyone who has a gun is just going to start being shot?!

    Is that smart to assign a rookie to a reservation where he has already shot a tribal member? That doesn’t make any sense!

    • I don’t understand how that makes it sound as if there were two people in Robbins’ car. I think you are misreading the sentence.

      • Kym, perhaps C.H.U.M.P should weigh in on this.

      • Lost Croat Outburst

        Yes, Kym, I agree with you, I don’t get the two-person assumption. Also, pointing a gun at police will get you shot every time. If he thought it was his cousin, why point a gun at him? Could have been anybody, kids on a lark, lost tourists, etc. The fact that Robbins is still alive relects badly on police training. A serious maniac rather than a simpleton would have kiled the police after the failed fusillade.

        You can’t make this stuff up. Tarantino would kick you out of script-writing class. Movie title idea: Training Night. Great memories for Deputy Cumbow; some officers never get to draw their gun on duty. A Little Hairy at Martin’s Ferry.

      • Where it says “him and Robbins,…” but I re-read and understand how you meant.

    • shawn the fisherman

      Its one thing to be carrying a gun and a whole other to point it at someone.. I would have discharged my weapon as well if he pointed that beast my way..

  • Armordivisionmedic

    I believe this is where the confusion is……Honsal said that the suspect later told officers that he thought the vehicle contained his cousin playing a joke on him and Robbins,

  • Honeydew Bridge C.H.U.M.P.

    How can a wounded person make a solid statement?

    Pain, IVs, trauma, etc….

    Seriously, someone can claim that person can give an unclouded, accurate statement?

    This smells worse than the weed they refuse to chop.

    Over the top.

  • I know it’s just semantics, but for the love of God, it’s a magazine, not a clip.
    Wonder when the Sheriffs will have to turn over those carry scary high capacity magazines…..oh wait, that’s just for us commoners.

  • So all they have to do is release a statement and its fact. Do u think if he New they were Police he would show them his gun, did they identify themselves?? im calling bullshit trying to cover their asses with a lie.

    • Aquaman knows the answers

      If only they had a vehicle which met legal requirements to clearly
      Identify them as police officers!?! Perhaps it could include two different colors of body panels and red and blue lights on top?

      Fuck me!!! It did the whole time!!

  • Thank you for covering this Kym, and thank you HCSO for being transparent.

  • We all know police ALWAYS tell the truth! Donning the magic suit and pinning on a stamped piece of brass transform a low – IQ person into someone of impeccable honesty and integrity. Their story is never to be questioned.

    There is no possibility they invented this story to cover up an embarrassing incident that certainly would have resulted in a substantial monetary award and possible criminal charges against the police. There would have been no incentive whatsoever for the police to fabricate this story to cover themselves. It`s never been done before so why would it possibly happen now?

    The story of the police is corroborated by the driver`s window of the car, which is obviously rolled down. Certainly Mr. Robbins was in a clear, rational frame of mind after being shot at, nearly killed, wounded, and almost certainly threatened and coerced by police. I was once in shock as the result of a motorcycle wreck and I can assure you when in pain and shock; one`s thinking is the clearest and any statements are completely rational.

  • Thinking allowed

    Although it is puzzling how a cop car with lights flashing, which I expect it was can be confused for his relative’s car, I do have sympathy for the man who got shot. He made a mistake, is calling it a mistake of his and not lying to get others blamed. How unusual. I hope he recovers well.

    I still also hope the sheriff’s office does a thorough review and can do so without the public spitefulness so that if there is a chance of improvement, it can be done with honesty.

    • It didn’t say the red and blue lights were flashing, and they’re not flashing in the photo. I think the poor guy was blinded by the spotlights.

      P.S. Who sits around Martins Ferry at night and not have a gun for protection? Not me.

  • no lights or siren= cops at fault

    maybe i missed it but it doesnt say they had their police lights on or used their siren in any way which would have let this person know it was cops approaching him. they make it a point to say the officers were in complete uniforms in marked cars but why would this matter when they blinded him with their headlights and spotlights??.. he couldnt tell who the fuck it was. they SAY they yelled “sheriff’s office” but anyone can say that.. the police lights or siren would have clarified they were the police. we know the sheriffs office lies so why would we even believe they yelled anything?? mr. robbins pointed/exposed the gun BEFORE he knew it was the fuzz, when he thought it was someone fucking with him. if i was out there and some vehicle came zipping up to me, brighting/blinding me, i would think something sketchy is up and grab my gun too. the deputies didn’t identify themselves like they should have.. WHY DIDNT THEY TURN ON THEIR LIGHTS OR SIREN???

    • Most excellent questions.

      • Thinking allowed

        So ask instead of assume they didn’t. I tend to assume they did as they normally do. But it could be they didn’t but I think it very unlikely.

        • Why would you assume that the cop truck would have its lights flashing? They were just driving and came up to the other car and the shit hit the fan. Did I miss where the were responding to a call or something? Cops don’t drive around with their lights flashing everywhere they go. And in the photo the lights are not flashing but I understand that may not mean much but I do know that it seems every time I see the aftermath of a cop situation that their lights always seem to be flashing even a long time after the incident. I don’t know why the flashing lights would have been turned off here when in other situations they leave them on. It is more plausible that they didn’t have their flashing lights on.

          • Thinking allowed

            Maybe not. As I said. But then again I would not wave a gun because simply because a search light hit my car and I couldn’t see who it was either so evaluating the situation is difficult for me. I certainly would not condemn the police for not turning on their lights before they knew what was happening either. They might not have thought anything more than it was something to check into. Maybe there is a reason to do so or maybe there is a reason not to do so.

            I just hate armchair heros pontificating hate from a place of personal bias and safety. It irritates. Especially as spewing such hate only ensures such incidents are more likely .

    • Aquaman knows the answers

      Why don’t we use your logic and come at it from another direction? Unlike this person
      I legally own a firearm. How about anytime I’m out at night if someone shines their super mean headlights at me I point a
      gun at them? That’s sooooooo stupid.

      It’s embarrassing we re even having this conversation!!! Grow the fuck up people. Headlights does not equal deadly threat which does not give you right to brandish a gun at someone. Again, it pains me to state the obvious but if you point a gun at someone for the serious act of having headlights, and the headlight possessor happens to be a cop you will be shot. This isn’t a game of monopoly.

      • Says, Aquaman, who clearly has never been on a reservation, or pulled nightwatch anywhere, let alone the Rez. *rolls eyes* you know nothing!

    • No lights or siren has a point. They should have turned on the blue lights. That’s a rough neighborhood where cops are rarely seen. Lots of people get robbed out that way by scumbags posing as cops too; that is a fact! The cops should have a better protocol. That said, pointing a gun was idiotic.

  • 22 shots!? And he got cut with glass? For Fuck’s Sake where do the sheriffs learn to shoot? I love that after a couple of days the report comes out how they were yelling sheriff’s office! I can guarantee they weren’t rolling with the red and blue lights. Not to mention they don’t go out that way much. Shoot first, ask questions later. If we(THE PEOPLE) are hiring these scared shitless [edit], we deserve what we get.

  • It sure is a good thing George ducked down. Otherwise he may not have survived.

  • I can not believe how terrible of a shot our local law enforcement are, first; 42 shots fired at suspect who shot at police in eureka and he’s still alive, and now this 22 shots at pretty close range and barely a scratch… Smh

  • Absolutely embarrassing for the officers involved. The sad part is this is a reflection of the training they receive. Who is the firearms instructor? They should be fired and replaced with someone who can teach these guys to properly fire their weapon. Not saying I wish they would have hit Robbins, just picking on the officers incompetence.

    • Just like the Sheriffs office to shoot first and ask questions later. Heartless racist scared beyond belief assh***s. Then they cover their tracks by some BS story that they all invented and agreed upon. I agree in a way that maybe George Robbins was in the wrong by having an illegal gun. But if I were him I would be hiring an attorney. The police don’t care whose family they kill.

  • They are like ss nazi storm troopers.
    And apparently cant comprehend that others also have a job to do and also carry to do so.
    This hopefully shows clearly and exposes these sherriffs as complete,assclowns and if not hopefully my words will.

  • Things may change soon with new Federal court ruling about counties and tribes

    http://www.courthousenews.com/ninth-circuit-sides-paiute-tribe-dispute-inyo-county/

    The tribe’s attorney Dorothy Alther said the Bishop Paiute are pleased by the ruling.

    “The impact of this case on the tribe and all tribes that operate a tribal police department is tremendous,” Alther said in an email. “The tribe and counties need certainty and clarification on tribal inherent authority to ensure safety on tribal lands. No tribal police officer should be subjected to criminal prosecution for carrying out his or her duties.”

    “The tribe maintains that it has “inherent tribal authority” to enforce the law over Indians and non-Indians on its reservation. It sought a court order barring the sheriff’s office from arresting and prosecuting its police officers for carrying out their duties, and a declaration that the officers have the power to investigate violations of tribal, state, and federal law, and to detain and transport a non-Indian violator to state law enforcement authorities.

    Wednesday, Ninth Circuit Judge Mary Murguia wrote for the unanimous panel that the tribe had adequately pleaded a federal question that gave the trial court subject matter jurisdiction when it claimed Johnson’s arrest violated federal common law, and that federal common law grants the tribe authority to conduct law enforcement on its land.”

    You can be certain that California tribal authorities have been following this court case and now that the judgment has been posted, will be expecting the counties to be aware of how it affects them and behave accordingly.
    HCSD should be asking county counsel for advice and adjusting their policies accordingly.
    What’s the old adage: “Ignorance of the law is no excuse”?

  • Did you know that one of the officers was on leave from Fortuna for a shooting that involved a dead?

  • Once again thankfully the cops are lousy shots

  • Seems as if it’s very much possible that the man saw only the bright headlights of a car, then had a blinding spotlight flashed on him. It very well could have been a robbery for all he knew. Nothing to identify the car as police.

    Were the flashing blue lights activated or not? That is the question which needs to be asked. You can’t drive up to someone, shine a powerful blinding light in their face, as a security guard, without somehow identifying themselves as police.

    Especially given the area is not usually patrolled by police. Did they identify themselves as police prior to blinding the man with a floodlight at 3AM???

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