VIDEO: Man killed in officer-involved shooting pointed weapon at officers, sheriff says
UPDATE at 6:23 p.m.
A 25-year-old man shot and killed during a New Year’s Day confrontation with law enforcement had recently been released from custody after an incident reportedly involving a concealed handgun and statements that he wanted to commit suicide by cop.
Nevada County Sheriff Shannan Moon and Grass Valley Police Chief Alex Gammelgard released a video message Thursday afternoon that identified Gabriel Justin Strickland as the deceased, saying officers shot him after he pointed what appeared to be a weapon at them. They later discovered it was an Airsoft rifle.
Sheriff’s Deputies Brandon Tripp and Taylor King, as well as Grass Valley Police Officer Brian Hooper, were placed on paid administrative leave after the shooting. The three will need to be cleared to return to duty by the District Attorney’s Office, sheriff’s spokesman Andrew Trygg said.
“I do not believe there is any timetable right now as far as how long (they will be on leave),” Nevada County Assistant District Attorney Chris Walsh said in an email.
Moon in the statement laid out a timeline of the “rapidly evolving incident” that ended in Strickland’s death.
Both Moon and Gammelgard extended their condolences to Strickland’s family.
“The loss of his life is tragic,” Moon said.
At 12:46 p.m. Wednesday, the first 911 call came in regarding a man walking with a shotgun on his shoulder on Squirrel Creek Road. A sheriff’s deputy responded to the area within two minutes, Moon said.
At about the same time, a Grass Valley police officer was flagged down about Strickland, who at that point was on Oak Street.
The deputy saw a man in black in the road with what appeared to be a shotgun, refusing to drop the weapon, Moon said.
“The weapon he was holding was a black Airsoft rifle,” said Walsh, whose office is heading the investigation into the shooting. “It appears that there used to be an orange tip on the muzzle of the rifle that was broken off prior to the shooting that made it appear more realistic.”
One more deputy and two Grass Valley officers arrived at the scene and for six minutes worked to convince Strickland to drop his weapon, Moon said.
An officer deployed a Taser, Moon said, adding, “Unfortunately, this was ineffective.”
Strickland then pointed his weapon directly at officers, who discharged their weapons, she said. First aid was rendered but Strickland was pronounced dead at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital.
“A preliminary examination of the decedent shows he was hit five to six times by gunfire,” Walsh said. “We will have more precise information after the autopsy.”
According to Walsh, the autopsy will be performed today, and toxicology tests also will be conducted.
Gammelgard said the District Attorney’s Office will ensure the investigation remains independent, adding that its investigators will be taking multiple witness statements, reviewing hours of footage from vehicle-mounted and body-worn cameras and analyzing “significant” forensic evidence from the scene.
The investigation is in its very early stages, Gammelgard said, warning it could take months to complete.
“We will release video footage when available,” he said, adding both departments will conduct internal reviews of the use of force in relation to policies and procedures.
Strickland had been out of custody less than 48 hours at the time of the shooting, court records indicate.
On Dec. 27, Grass Valley police responded to a report of a man harassing customers at a laundromat and were told that Strickland had been making “suicide by cop” statements, Sgt. Jason Perry said at the time.
Officers tried to evaluate Strickland and then attempted to take him into custody, but he began fighting officers before being handcuffed. During a search, officers located drug paraphernalia and a .22-caliber handgun, as well as ammunition, in his pockets, Perry said.
A criminal complaint was filed charging Strickland with possessing a loaded firearm while under the influence, being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, and resisting arrest.
His bail had been set at $300,000, but at his arraignment Monday, a Nevada County Superior Court judge granted him pre-trial release. Strickland was released from custody that day and was scheduled to return to court on Jan. 23.
Nevada County authorities have identified Gabriel Strickland as the man fatally shot by officers on New Year’s Day.
Strickland, 25, of Grass Valley, was shot when officers responded to reports of an armed man walking down Squirrel Creek Road, near Adam Avenue. They found Strickland minutes later at Oak and Walker drives, told him to drop his weapon and then used a Taser on him, Sheriff Shannan Moon said in a video statement.
Officers then fired at Strickland when he pointed his weapon at them, Moon says.
Grass Valley police arrested Strickland last week at a Freeman Lane laundromat after responding to reports of a man harassing customers. When police arrived, they were told about another report in which Strickland made “suicide by cop” statements, police have said.
When officers tried to arrest Strickland, he struggled with them. Police later found suspected drug paraphernalia and a .22-caliber handgun, as well as ammunition, in his pockets, reports state.
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