Smartsville man killed in fatal confrontation had made threats to shoot cops, authorities say | TheUnion.com

Smartsville man killed in fatal confrontation had made threats to shoot cops, authorities say

Officials with the Department of Justice, Nevada County District Attorney's and Sheriff’s offices at the scene of the Jan. 1 officer-involved fatal shooting in Grass Valley in this Jan. 3 file photo.
Elias Funez/efunez@theunion.com

In the days leading up to a final, fatal confrontation with law enforcement that led to his shooting death, Gabriel Strickland made threatening statements about killing cops and engaged in a physical altercation with Grass Valley police officers while in possession of a handgun, authorities said.

A be-on-the-lookout advisory had been issued for Strickland on Dec. 24, and the information was still in circulation on New Year’s Day when Strickland, 25, was shot after he pointed what was believed to be a shotgun at officers. The weapon later was determined to be an Airsoft rifle, the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office has said.

Strickland was reportedly hit five times and died at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital. Nevada County Sheriff’s deputies Brandon Tripp and Taylor King, and Grass Valley Police Officer Brian Hooper, have been placed on paid administrative leave, the Sheriff’s Office said.

The Dec. 24 BOLO was prompted by a 911 call from a relative who said Strickland had jumped into his truck as he backed out of a driveway on Rough and Ready Highway, said sheriff’s spokesman Andrew Trygg.

The man, who is not being identified, said he believed Strickland had intended to carjack him but changed his mind when he recognized him.

“He was talking about killing cops, he was talking about killing himself, he was talking about killing other people,” he said, adding Strickland was behaving strangely and seemed angry.

Strickland asked to be driven to pick up an assault rifle and said he wanted to go on a “killing spree” and was wanted by the law. He also claimed to have already shot a man, leaving the body in a shed.

The man said he first drove to Grass Valley, then dropped Strickland off near Bitney Springs Road around 3:45 p.m.

Responding deputies did an area check but were unable to locate Strickland, Trygg said.

The Sheriff’s Office issued a welfare check advisory, indicating that Strickland had made comments about obtaining a gun and wanting to shoot law enforcement. It also stated that he appeared to be under the influence of a controlled substance and had a history of “being officer assaultive,” Trygg said.

Days later

On Dec. 27, Grass Valley police officers responded to a report of a man harassing customers and they were advised of the BOLO regarding Strickland. Strickland began resisting and fighting officers at a Freeman Lane laundromat before being handcuffed, and then was found to have a handgun and ammunition in his pockets, Grass Valley Sgt. Jason Perry and reports stated.

Strickland was charged 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 he was granted pre-trial release at a Dec. 30 hearing in Nevada County Superior Court, according to court records.

The BOLO that was issued could be a significant factor in the Jan. 1 shooting investigation, said Assistant District Attorney Chris Walsh, whose office is tasked with taking witness statements, reviewing footage from vehicle-mounted and body-worn cameras and analyzing forensic evidence from the scene.

Attorney Patrick Dwyer, who has been retained by Strickland’s family, said his primary concern is that the investigation is thorough.

“Number one, the family wants to know what happened,” Dwyer said Monday. “(They) will look at whether to file a legal action once the facts are more clear.”

Beyond that, Dwyer said, Strickland’s death is a tragedy for the whole community.

“I’m hopeful we can learn how to handle these situations better for all citizens of Nevada County,” he said. “Maybe the use of force was appropriate. I have no opinion (at this time), I’m reserving judgement.”

Dwyer said he sees his role as a fact-gatherer.

“I am trying to track down information,” he said. “If I find relevant evidence, I will share this with ADA Chris Walsh and I have already done this earlier today. We all have to reserve judgement — it’s premature to reach conclusions. We have to look at this thoroughly and not be afraid of what we might find. I don’t know the answers yet.”

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, email lizk@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.


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