Man shot by deputies was hit 11 times

November 4, 2010 2:30:25 PM PDT
A Petaluma man who was shot 11 times by Sonoma County sheriff's deputies and a California Highway Patrol officer last week died of two lethal gunshot wounds to his chest, an autopsy by the Sonoma County coroner's office found.

Nicodemus Theophrastos Sullivan, 24, was shot in the 4000 block of Hargrave Ave. south of Santa Rosa at about 10:30 p.m. Friday during a confrontation that started when Sullivan allegedly violated a restraining order.

Santa Rosa police are investigating the shooting.

The names of the deputies involved are being withheld until police and the sheriff's office determine whether any of them are at risk from associates of Sullivan, who authorities said was a gang member.

Four of the deputies who fired their weapons have been placed on paid administrative leave, sheriff's Capt. Matt McCaffrey said.

Santa Rosa police Lt. Paul Henry said Sullivan had violated a restraining order that night by visiting the home of his stepfather and mother on Hargrave Avenue.

In a previous incident at the home on Sept. 4, Sullivan had threatened his stepfather and was arrested for possessing a loaded shotgun. He was arrested there again on Oct. 10 for making threats, and was booked into Sonoma County Jail, Henry said.

Sullivan was released from jail on Oct. 28, and went to the Hargrave Avenue home that evening but fled before deputies arrived. An order to arrest Sullivan for violating the restraining order was issued, Henry said.

The next day, Friday, he visited the home briefly at about 7 p.m. and another restraining order violation report was taken. At about 10 p.m., the sheriff's office received a call reporting that Sullivan had returned, Henry said.

When the first deputy arrived, Sullivan was backing his 1995 Nissan Altima out of the driveway, Henry said.

Sullivan stopped his car in the street and refused to get out, Henry said. The deputy called for assistance and seven other deputies, two sheriff's sergeants and a CHP officer responded.

The deputies negotiated with Sullivan for 30 minutes but he refused to surrender, Henry said. One patrol vehicle was then parked in front of his car and several others were parked behind it, Henry said.

Deputies broke the Nissan's right front passenger window with a baton and Sullivan was shot with a Taser through the open driver's side window just as deputies were about to release a police dog through the passenger window, Henry said.

Henry said the Taser had no effect and Sullivan rapidly accelerated, striking a patrol car parked in front of him.

Sheriff's deputies and the CHP officer fired at Sullivan because they believed the Nissan had hit a deputy who was standing near the patrol car a short time earlier, Henry said.

Sullivan kept driving, hitting other patrol cars.

The deputies and CHP officer believed they were in the path of the Nissan and fired more shots at Sullivan, Henry said. After that, the Nissan stopped, he said.

When several deputies approached the car, it appeared Sullivan was reaching toward the right-side floorboard of the Nissan, Henry said. Fearing he was reaching for a weapon, the law enforcement officers fired again at Sullivan, according to Henry.

Deputies then removed Sullivan from the car with help from a police dog. He was treated by medics waiting nearby and then taken to a hospital.

Henry said a total of 30 shots were fired. The autopsy found that 11 shots hit Sullivan in the upper torso, arms and buttock. Two of the bullet wounds were lethal, according to the coroner's office.

The coroner's office is still awaiting the results of toxicology tests.

Henry said witnesses stated that Sullivan's behavior had recently become bizarre, that he made statements about the world coming to an end and was "obsessed" with reading the Book of Revelation in the Bible.

Henry and McCaffrey said Sullivan was a known gang member.

On Nov. 16, 2005, when Sullivan was sentenced to six months in jail and three years' probation for receiving stolen property, Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Dean Beaupre ordered him not to associate with gangs or wear gang colors, according to court records.


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