A shooting incident Thursday morning in Butte County left a suspect and his dog dead, as well as a Sutter County Sheriff’s Office police dog.
Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey told reporters that a 48-year-old Berry Creek man, wanted in a years-old double murder case in Butte County, was shot by police after leading them on a pursuit that ended in a Camp Fire evacuation zone.
The police dog, Bandit, had been part of the Sutter County Sheriff’s Department since January 2017 and belonged to Deputy John Lopez, who was chosen as the department’s 2017 officer of the year.
Butte County Sheriff public information officer Miranda Bowersox said in an email that she could not confirm any details about the shooting, which is now being investigated by the Butte County Officer Involved Shooting Protocol Team.
Around 11 a.m. a sheriff’s deputy was contacted about a suspicious man who had been staying in the parking lot of a hardware store, according to the Chico Enterprise-Record. A Butte County sheriff’s deputy approached the unidentified man, recognized that he was wanted and called other officers to the scene. Responding officers tried to get the man out of his car, but he instead closed his door and started to back up toward the officers, then drove forward and crashed into another car in the lot. He then drove south on Highway 70 toward Oroville, leading officers on a pursuit that reached up to 90 mph.
Officers then set up a spike strip at Highway 70 and Pentz Road where the man drove over and continued some way before coming to a stop. Several officers got behind the man’s car and ordered him out of the car. He complied, but allegedly refused to take his right hand out of his jacket, the Chico E-R reported.
Bandit was released when the man allegedly advanced toward officers, one of whom alleged they saw the man throw something off to the side. Officers began shooting at the man, wounding Bandit. The man’s pitbull leapt from the vehicle and attacked Bandit, according to the Chico E-R. The pitbull was shot by an officer and both dogs died.
The man was shot at least twice, once in the torso and once in the head, and died at the scene. He did not shoot at officers and it was not clear if he was armed, according to the Chico E-R. Three officers involved in the shooting were from the Butte County Sheriff’s Office, three from Shasta County Sheriff’s Office and one from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
In a public Facebook post Thursday morning, Lopez wrote that he and other local officers were in the Concow area “keeping looters at bay” and feeding animals left behind.
Sutter County sheriff-elect Brandon Barnes did not respond to a voicemail but in a Facebook post, wrote that his thoughts and prayers are with his Sutter County family and that he is monitoring the situation.
In an email, Sutter County Undersheriff Jeff Pierce said the department is saddened to hear of the loss of a canine who was just doing his duty protecting officers and the community. He said that canines are a big part of the department family and are especially bonded to their handlers.
“Our focus at present is on the well-being of the handler and family. Being a former K-9 handler, I can understand the emotions the family is going through,” Pierce wrote. “It has been a very sad week. The fire that has cost so many lives and now we are experiencing the loss of our canine officer, Bandit, who loved his job.”