Sheriff Downey: Xtra Guns Found in Last Weekend’s Late-Nite Loleta Melee
Hank Sims / Thursday, Jan. 24 @ 3:21 p.m. / Crime
The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office called a press release on the aforementioned case this morning. It was a bit of a puzzler when the word came in. What could have since happened in this thing since to warrant summoning the entire county’s media apparati — me, Ryan Burns, Luke Ramseth and Kelly May — to Sheriff HQ?
Seemed like a straightforward kind of case when it went down over the weekend. Dude pulls a runner from an attempted traffic stop in the middle of the night. Ends up crashing and burning in Loleta, but not before a few hairy moments. The suspect barreled down on the deputy, who at one point had stepped outside his car. The deputy saw a gun in the car and fired a couple of shots at his would-be assailant right before he ran over his foot. The dude was later found hiding in a ditch and taken into custody.
What else could there possibly be? Burns and I spent a few moments outside the court trying to puzzle it out. We were summoned there … because of some sort of police misconduct investigation? Because something happened to the suspect in jail? Because the sheriff wished to make some kind of point about realignment? (The suspect was a state parolee who had been transferred into local agents’ hands.) Later I heard that at least a few members of the general public had gotten wind of the press conference and assumed that some sort of connection to the strange case of the late Ike Densmore must have been unearthed.
Here, in bullet point form, is the additional information pertaining to the case that Sheriff Downey laid out this morning:
- Investigators were able to do a thorough search of the vehicle in question only yesterday. They found two weapons — a .380 handgun and a sawed-off shotgun. As a convicted felon, the suspect — Elliott Michael Walin — was not allowed to possess these weapons.
- Conan Moore, the deputy involved, returns to active duty tomorrow. The county’s Critical Incident Response Team has investigated the shooting, and there is no suggestion that Moore acted inappropriately at any time.
- Sheriffs are still looking for the gun that Deputy Moore believed was in Walin’s hand when he exited his vehicle and beat feet. But Downey said that perhaps Walin wasn’t carrying a gun at that precise moment after all. They’re going to search again.
- Walin is a member of the Aryan Nation.
Run o’ the mill stuff, as far as I could tell. So why, again, was this a press conference rather than a brief email communique to the media?
The answer came up only at the end of the conference, in response to a question asked by either May or Ramseth. I forget who.
Turns out that this is the first time a sheriff’s deputy has fired a weapon at a suspect in almost two and a half years — since the Aug. 2010 incident in Blue Lake — and the department is a little bit freaked out about that fact. Far more freaked out than the general public, as it turned out. So Downey and his press officer, Lt. Steve Knight, thought they should get all hands on deck to answer all questions about the incident that the public didn’t have.
It was kind of quaint.