D.A. report: Woman talked of suicide before police shooting
Adams says officers acted appropriately
The 67-year-old woman shot and killed May 20 by police at her Yuba City home had a high level of alcohol and anti-depressant drugs in her system, was facing foreclosure and had spoken of suicide, according to a report released Thursday by the Sutter County District Attorney's Office.
After Victoria Helen Roger-Vasselin was killed her fiance said, "That's what she wanted," reads the report prepared by Sutter County District Attorney Carl Adams. The report concludes that Yuba City police officers acted legally and justifiably in the fatal confrontation.
"While the death of Ms. Roger-Vasselin is very sad, it is clear that all the officers tried to avoid that outcome," Adams said.
A son of the slain woman described the D.A.'s report as "absolutely crazy."
"My mom was a devout Catholic and would never, ever consider suicide," Matthew Biscotti said of Roger-Vasselin.
Adams said in the report that "the death of Ms. Victoria Roger-Vasselin is very sad and my sympathy certainly goes out to her family. Nevertheless, it is quite clear that the officers clearly and reasonably were in fear for their lives and fired only after the victim refused to put down the weapon and continued to advance."
The police officers' decisions to fire their weapons "was the necessary thing to do," he stated.
Yuba City Police Chief Rob Landon said "officers were forced to make a split-second decision in a rapidly evolving and very dangerous event."
"Two different persons living in the house had two separate weapons and these two people pointed loaded weapons at the officers," Landon said in a statement. "The extremely high level of alcohol and the effects of the prescription drugs ingested by Victoria Roger-Vasselin were contributing factors in the unfortunate decisions made by Roger-Vasselin that evening. We would like to express our sorrow to all persons involved in this tragic event and those affected by it also."
Adams said his report follows six investigators from the District Attorney's Office responding to the scene and conducting the investigation into the shooting. He said the D.A.'s office is not releasing the specific blood alcohol level of Roger-Vasselin.
Biscotti, 43, one of the slain woman's sons, disputed the account that two officers heard her fiance, Lionel "Lonnie" Patterson, 51, say of Roger-Vasselin "that's what she wanted" after the shooting.
"Lonnie never said that," Biscotti insisted.
His mother's house was not facing foreclosure, he said.
"We were going through a loan modification," Biscotti said. "That's a big difference."
She and Patterson had gone to dinner at Ruthy's restaurant in Yuba City for dinner that evening and had a couple of drinks, Biscotti said.
"Any drugs she had were prescription," Biscotti said.
Biscotti said the report presents an unfair picture of his mother.
"It was just so ugly," he said.
"It's crazy. It's absolutely crazy," Biscotti said of the report. "It hurts my heart."
The district attorney's report states that a female census worker went to Roger-Vasselin's home May 20 to collect routine census information and first met with Patterson, who shut the door in the worker's face. She knocked again and said she only wanted information, and Patterson was cooperating when Roger-Vasselin came up behind him and pointed a handgun in the face of the census worker, who ran from the house and reported the incident, the report states.
Five officers met, discussed the incident, and at 10 p.m. went to the house to talk with the couple and secure the weapon, Adams said. Four officers took positions around the front walk and the investigating officer Catherine Alestra knocked on the door. Patterson opened the door holding a handgun and pointed the weapon at Alestra about a foot from her face, according to the report.
Other officers yelled for Patterson to drop the weapon and he moved back from the door for a moment, returned without the weapon and with his hands raised. He was directed out to the front walk.
Officers noticed the barrel of a shotgun coming forward through the door and they began yelling "Police" and "drop the gun," the report states. Officer David Krause yelled, "We are the police. We will shoot you if you don't drop the gun."
Officer David Santanna saw a naked woman coming forward holding a shotgun with the barrel level and about waist-high. Officer William Wolfe at the front walk saw Roger-Vasselin advancing with the shotgun. Fearing for other officers as well as Patterson, Wolfe yelled, "Shoot her. Shoot her."
At that moment Krause, standing in the yard to the right of the front door, saw the shotgun and the woman's arms clear the door and come into to his view as she advanced. Seeing the barrel begin to swing in his direction, Krause fired. Officer David Santanna on the right of the walkway, also saw the shotgun movement and fired at the same moment.
Roger-Vasselin was hit four times and fell backward into her house, fatally shot, according to the report.
Krause and Santanna gave complete and voluntary statements to the District Attorney's Office, Adams said.
Patterson was arrested and faces felony counts of assault with a firearm and assault with a firearm on police officers. An Aug. 27 preliminary hearing for Patterson is scheduled in Sutter County Superior Court.
Five Yuba City police officers were placed on leave after the shooting, the department said. Three have returned. Two were still on leave pending the D.A.'s report.
"As far as I'm concerned, they're all free to return to duty," Adams said Thursday after the report's release.
Another son, Christian Biscotti, earlier this month told the Appeal-Democrat that a private, independent investigation was under way.
"Justice will be done," he said at that time. "We're not going to give up."
CONTACT Ryan McCarthy at 49-4707 or email@example.com.