Sutter County D.A. expects report this week on fatal cop shooting
Yuba City Police Chief Rob Landon says it would be inappropriate to comment on the fatal shooting of Victoria Helen Roger-Vasselin until the investigation is completed — but that the department is willing to discuss the matter when the district attorney's investigation is finished.
"We can address the family's concerns," Landon said. "I feel bad the story is going out without our side.
"We want the investigation to run its course," he said Friday.
Sutter County District Attorney Carl Adams said he expects the investigation will be completed early this week and that he'll issue a report by the end of the week.
Adams said police called him within a couple of hours after shots were fired May 20 at the home and the scene was still secure. The District Attorney's Office sent senior criminal investigators under the direction of the D.A.'s chief investigator to the scene within an hour, he said. "The District Attorney's Office undertook from the very beginning the investigation into whether the officers committed a crime in the discharge of their weapons," Adams said.
He noted that at the same time, police investigated Lionel Craig Patterson, 51, the fiance of Roger-Vasselin, whom law enforcement said came to the door with a gun.
The Police Department also conducted an internal affairs investigation into whether the officers involved followed the department's policies and procedures, Adams said.
In a press release issued at 1:45 a.m. May 21, the Police Department said officers were called to the Roger-Vasselin home after a census worker had been confronted by residents who pointed a firearm at the worker and said they would not answer any questions and closed the door.
"Police responded to the Mariner Loop address and a male subject answered the door armed with a handgun," the report said. "As officers were dealing with the male, a female approached the door with a shotgun and ignored officer's orders to release the weapon.
"As the female advanced on officers, she continued to point the shotgun at officers in a threatening manner and two officers fired their service weapons, hitting the female," the department said of Roger-Vasselin, who was pronounced dead at the scene.
The two officers involved in the shooting were to be placed on administrative release until details of the shooting could be investigated, police said.
William Vizzard — chairman of the criminal justice division at California State University, Sacramento, and a special agent for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms until his retirement in 1994 — said generally of police shootings that few people question them if they involve a robber coming out of a bank with guns blazing.
But others can involve ambiguity — and all such shootings and their aftermath represent a very stressful situation for police who may wonder, "Am I going to be pilloried in public?" Vizzard said Friday.
Law enforcement learning of a police shooting in their agency may think, "I'm glad I was off today," he said. Those involved may wonder, "Why did I have to be here?"
Two decades ago, as special agent for the ATF, Vizzard said he had his gun pointed at the head of a suspect in a truck and the man dropped his hands rather than raise them as Vizzard commanded. The suspect's hands immediately came back up — and he was later discovered to have three guns nearby — but Vizzard spoke of the speed with which events took place.
"All of that happened in an instant," he said.
The closest experience most people may have is narrowly avoiding a traffic accident, Vizzard said. "Afterwards you say to yourself, 'How did that happen?'" of trying to reconstruct the events.
James Hernandez, who is also an instructor in criminal justice at Sacramento State and was a reserve officer in Pittsburg, said investigations into police shootings are extensive.
"Over the years they've gotten a lot more thorough — almost to the point of paranoia," Hernandez said.
Hernandez, retained by the Arizona Attorney General's Office for a lawsuit over a police shooting, said the situations that police face can be hard for people who haven't been in such confrontations to understand.
"I don't think the public has a real idea of what it is like to point a gun at somebody," he said.
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