Humboldt County Sheriff Mike Downey met with the media Wednesday afternoon to sum up the prior day’s events relating to the shooting of a deputy in Shelter Cove and the eventual arrest of a suspect, William Nelson. 

Around 2:45 p.m. Tuesday afternoon a Humboldt County Sheriff’s deputy and sergeant arrived at a residence on Kelly Lane in an attempt to serve a court-ordered eviction notice, which stemmed from a domestic violence incident. They then exchanged fire with the suspect, resulting in the deputy being shot in the chest. Downey reiterated earlier reports the officer’s life was potentially saved by his bulletproof vest.

“He does have a trauma wound to the area to where the bullet struck the vest,” Downey said of the injured officer’s condition. “But the vest did contain the bullet.”

Downey also noted that the officer injured his ankle while fleeing from the suspect. The officer was not named at the press conference, but Downey said that information would likely be made available later in the week. The deputy is expected to be able to return to duty as early as next week.

(Below: Downey’s statements at Wednesday’s press conference.)

With regards to the apprehension of Nelson, Downey said that due to Shelter Cove’s remoteness response time was slow and that it took a while for an adequate perimeter around the house to be formed. Once established —with help from numerous agencies including, the Eureka and Arcata Police departments, SWAT and others — negotiators and mental health workers on-site were unable to establish any contact with anyone inside the house. As the night wore on some units were sent home. 

At around 3:30 a.m., deputies witnessed Nelson, who apparently had not been in the home after all, attempting to reenter the residence. He was then contacted and detained without incident. Nelson was then transported to the Humboldt County Correctional Facility and booked for attempted murder of a police officer (additional charges will likely be added later) with bail set at two million dollars.

Downey said that the weapon Nelson used in the shooting was a handgun.

Your Lost Coast Outpost had heard that Nelson was somewhat notorious in SoHum and looked into his prior convictions. There was quite a list:


  • Charges: DUI (alcohol or drugs), vandalism (less than $400 worth of damage), resisting arrest.
  • Sentence: Charges reduced to a “wet and reckless.”

5/12/08: (charges stemming from events on 6/6/07)

  • Charges: Felony assault with a firearm; maliciously shooting from a vehicle; felon in possession of a loaded firearm; driving with a suspended/revoked license. (That’s four felonies.)
  • Plea: No contest.
  • Sentence: 212 days of jail plus three years’ probation, which he would later violate.

4/22/11: (charges stemming from events on 7/17/09 and 11/18/10)

  • Charges: Vandalism (more than $400 in damage), shooting at an unoccupied vehicle (misdemeanor), discharging a firearm in a negative manner, two felony counts of possession of a firearm within 10 years of being convicted of a felony, five felony counts of possession of an assault weapon within 10 years of being convicted of a felony, possession of a deadly weapon, three misdemeanor counts of vandalism, plant/cultivate/harvest marijuana (felony), possession of marijuana for sale (felony), knowingly rent for storage of Cs (no idea what this means) (felony), convicted felon in possession of a firearm (felony)
  • Sentence: Fined $1,220 and sentenced to 336 days in jail, three years in prison and three years’ probation.

[LoCO note: The court records system only goes back so far — 10 years, we think — so there may be more in his past. Also, looking at that 2011 conviction, you’d think he should still be in prison, right? We’ll follow up on this.]