Nevada County, with its small population, has had only a half-dozen officer-involved shootings in the last decade — but three of those have occurred in the last 14 months, two of which were fatal.
A fourth shooting involving law enforcement occurred in Sierra County July 1, but began as an incident in Nevada County.
Two of the shootings involved Nevada County Sheriff’s deputies, including the fatal shooting of John Arthur Salazar during an armed standoff in September 2011. More recently, a deputy fired at a fleeing suspect in October of this year but missed. Two of the incidents involved Grass Valley Police officers, and one involved the California Highway Patrol.
NCSO’s last officer-involved shooting prior to Sept. 24, 2011, was back i1n June 2002 with a shooting off Red Dog Road that ended in the suspect’s death.
Prior to Dankers’ fatal shooting, Grass Valley had one incident in the last decade, when an officer fired on Ronald David Baker, as Baker allegedly tried to run him over in April 2007.
The CHP had an officer-involved shooting in February 2009; that incident occurred when a high-speed chase involving William Ray Hennefer reportedly ended when Hennefer rammed five patrol cars and fled on foot.
Nevada County District Attorney Cliff Newell, whose office is charged with investigating these incidents, noted that officer-involved shootings happen very infrequently.
“We have had a spike,” Newell said. “But you could say that about car burglaries, or serious domestic violence or child sexual assaults. There is a cycle to various crimes.”
Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal agreed that it is hard to extrapolate the relatively small numbers here into a trend, saying, “Law enforcement might not be involved in a shooting for another eight years.”
Certainly, larger law enforcement agencies are seeing an increase in such incidents, said Royal, who heads the statewide sheriff’s association.
In Sacramento County, for example, sheriff’s deputies have been involved in a record-high number of shootings. To date, deputies have fired their weapons 12 times this year, striking 11 suspects and killing eight of them. That’s double the decade-long average of six shootings a year and surpasses the previous record of nine in 2006.
“The question is: Is it because of realignment? Is it an anomaly? Is it a sign of the economy? Nobody has the answer,” Royal said. “The industry as a whole is asking and tracking what’s going on. Statewide, there has been a dramatic increase, possibly due to more drastic crimes being committed, maybe more people on the streets because of realignment who might otherwise be in prison. I don’t have the answers. It will probably take a while to figure out why.”
To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4229.