Police describe officer-involved shooting

December 12, 2008 12:59:09 PM PST
Sonoma County sheriff's deputies shot Sonoma-area resident Craig Von Dohlen on Saturday afternoon as he charged toward them with a rifle and fired at him again when he reached for it after he fell to the ground, Santa Rosa police wrote in a detailed report released Thursday about the incident.

Santa Rosa police and the Sonoma County District Attorney's Office are investigating the shooting outside the Von Dohlen residence at 245 Napa Road just outside Sonoma city limits.

An autopsy determined Von Dohlen, 37, suffered 10 gunshot wounds to the lower torso, hip and thigh area including a fatal gunshot to the head.

Santa Rosa police also identified the deputies who responded to the 12:14 p.m. incident that began when Von Dohlen's father John called 9-1-1 to report that his son was under the influence, was armed with a .22-caliber rifle and was threatening to kill himself.

The deputies are Fletcher Skerritt, a two-year employee with the sheriff's department with five years total experience; Elena Transue, an 11-month sheriff's employee with three years total experience; Ron Hansen, a 23-year veteran; and Kevin Mullnix, a 27-year veteran. They are now on administrative leave.

The report states the dispatcher who handled John Von Dohlen's call noted Craig Von Dohlen threatened to shoot deputies and commit suicide by cop and "keeps saying he's not going back to prison."

"There are no records indicating he has even been to state prison. Von Dohlen was not currently on parole or probation, nor did he have outstanding arrest warrants," the Santa Rosa police report states.

According to Sonoma County Superior Court records, Craig Von Dohlen pleaded guilty on Sept. 18, 2000, to possession of a controlled substance, being under the influence of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia on Dec. 5, 1999, and to misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance and being under the influence of a controlled substance on Jan. 1, 2000.

He was sentenced to four months in the Sonoma County Jail and three years probation that expired Aug. 10, 2003.

The Santa Rosa police report states the dispatcher reported "possible shots fired" at 12:24 p.m. A minute later, the dispatcher recorded, "Deputies are telling RP (reporting party) to get back - RP keeps saying, 'I'm not letting go,'" according to the police report.

At 12:28 p.m. the dispatcher states, "Still a loud verbal between RP and deputies" and mentions an additional deputy was requested "for an irate dad."

John Von Dohlen has complained deputies prevented him from going to the aid of his wounded son. The Santa Rosa police report states the deputies asked John Von Dohlen several times to clear the area outside the residence where the shooting occurred and to allow deputies to secure the weapon and the shooting scene.

John Von Dohlen continued swearing at the deputies and refused to comply with their requests to remain in one area outside the scene, according to the police report.

"He was uncooperative and distraught. The house and yard had not been checked for additional persons or weapons. To protect Von Dohlen and themselves, the deputies briefly handcuffed John Von Dohlen and placed him in a patrol vehicle," the report states. A Sonoma County law enforcement chaplain was requested to give emotional support to the Von Dohlen family, according to the report.

Craig Von Dohlen was upset Saturday for unknown reasons and told his 15-year-old son he was planning on killing himself, the report states.

The teen tried to change his father's mind but when Von Dohlen continued to make the suicide threats, the teen left the residence. Von Dohlen then grabbed the rifle, began arguing with his father and threatened to shoot him, according to the report.

When deputies arrived, John Von Dohlen declined to leave the house as they requested and tried to talk his son into changing his action, according to the report.

Craig Von Dohlen threatened to kill the deputies and charged them. John Von Dohlen tried to stop his son but Von Dohlen broke free from his father and continued charging toward the deputies, aiming the rifle directly at them, according to the report.

"The deputies fired several rounds without immediate effect. Craig Von Dohlen dropped the rifle and fell to the ground. He continued to attempt to reach for the rifle, which was still within his reach. The deputies continued to fire to prevent him from reaching the weapon," the report states.

Von Dohlen was put in an ambulance and brought to the intersection of Fifth Street and Napa Road with the intention of taking him to a hospital in a REACH helicopter.

"Within a few minutes, it was decided to proceed via ground to Sonoma Valley Hospital where Von Dohlen was pronounced deceased," the report states.


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