DA says officers justified in fatal shooting

November 29, 2011 10:00:11 PM PST
Four Sonoma County sheriff's deputies and a California Highway Patrol officer were justified in fatally shooting a Petaluma man who violated a restraining order last year, Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch said Tuesday.

Nicodemus Sullivan, 24, violated a restraining order obtained by his stepfather when he showed up at his mother's house in unincorporated Sonoma County south of Santa Rosa on Oct. 29, 2010, Ravitch said.

The violation was the fourth in two days and Sullivan's "unpredictable and aggressive behavior was rapidly escalating," Ravitch said.

Sullivan eluded deputies for two days before the shooting, and one of the deputies stopped Sullivan in his 1995 Nissan Altima as he left his mother's house an hour before the shooting, Ravitch said.

Sullivan appeared highly agitated and hostile, was wearing gang attire and appeared to be under the influence of methamphetamine, which was confirmed later in a toxicology report, Ravitch said.

Sullivan was arrested a month earlier with a firearm in his car outside his mother's house and deputies believed he might again have a gun in his vehicle, Ravitch said.

Deputies decided to use a dog to get Sullivan out of his vehicle, but Sullivan started the car, gunned the engine and drove directly toward the patrol cars and deputies, striking two of the cars, Ravitch said.

The five law enforcement officers fired their weapons and Sullivan died from two gunshot wounds to the chest, Ravitch said.

Eight sheriff's deputies, two sheriff's sergeants and a California Highway Patrol officer were present at the time, and 30 shots were fired at Sullivan's car outside the Hargrave Avenue residence, according to Santa Rosa police, the agency that investigated the shooting as part of a protocol regarding officer-involved shootings.

Santa Rosa police Lt. Paul Henry said Sullivan accelerated toward the parked patrol cars, striking a car where a female deputy had been seen standing. Fearing the deputy had been struck, the deputies and CHP officer fired. When Sullivan kept driving, deputies fired again before his car stopped, Henry said.

Sullivan was shot again when deputies thought he was reaching for a weapon on the right floorboard of the car. He was pronounced dead on arrival at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.

The Sonoma County coroner's office said Sullivan was struck 11 times.

Ravitch said it was impossible to determine which of the officers fired the fatal rounds, but none of the officers were criminally liable for Sullivan's death.

"The use of deadly force was a necessary and appropriate response to the threat Sullivan posed to their safety, and they acted within the scope of their duties," Ravitch said.


Load Comments