UPDATE, 1:30 p.m.: Another local resident who responded to the scene of last night’s fatal shooting in Blue Lake told the Outpost this afternoon that he believes deputies with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office did their jobs well and that the victim was likely too severely injured to be saved.
Charles Smart said he’s currently staying with a friend who lives east of the Patriot Gas station, on the other side of the old Burger Shack on Blue Lake Boulevard, and he responded to the scene last night after hearing a gunshot.
An acquaintance of his, who goes by Shaggy, had been smoking a cigarette outside the Patriot gas station with Mark Anthony Nelson Jr., the station attendant who has since been arrested on charges including murder. When a masked man appeared and told the two men to freeze, they both fled behind the gas station and, according to Smart, Shaggy then fled eastbound on Blue Lake Boulevard, where he encountered Smart.
After hearing a gunshot, Smart went inside and called 9-1-1, then began carefully making his way toward the gas station.
“I peaked around the corner of the old Burger Shack and saw a dude on the ground halfway between the building and the pumps, face down,” Smart said.
He also saw Chris “Turtle” Bondy (interviewed below), whom he knows, so he proceeded to the station.
While Bondy recalled CPR being administered to the gunshot victim, Smart said he and Bondy just applied pressure to the wound, and Smart performed a sternum rub in an effort to keep the victim soothed and conscious.
“I didn’t feel comfortable [performing CPR],” Smart said. “I am trained; it’s just, with where the gunshot was … there wasn’t anything anyone could have done at that point.”
Smart said the man had been shot in his left side, under his arm, and it looked like the bullet had gone through his lung and possibly into his heart. “I do believe his lungs had filled up with blood at that point,” he said.
It didn’t take long before law enforcement arrived, he said.
“When they got there, all they knew was there was an active shooter,” Smart said. “They pulled up. There were two vehicles and three deputies. At least one was a trainee. I heard them say that.”
At the time, Smart, Bondy, Shaggy and Nelson Jr. were all in the parking lot. “They were outnumbered,” Smart said of the sheriff’s deputies. “Their policy is you have to clear the scene first anyways. From what I saw, with them being shorthanded, they did what they could do to the best of their ability.”
While Bondy recalled five or more minutes elapsing before the Blue Lake Volunteer Fire Department responded, Smart’s recollection is that less time passed. “Max two minutes,” he said. The fire personnel began applying CPR to the gunshot victim, and the fire chief handcuffed three of them — all but Nelson Jr. — for his own protection, Smart said, adding, “and I understood that completely.”
In an apparent reference to the recent protests over police brutality and racial injustice, Smart said, “With everything that’s going on, I would like to point out that the only one of us that was not handcuffed was Mark because he was supposed to be the victim.” (Nelson Jr. is Black.)
According to the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, the alleged armed robber, whose body has yet to be identified, had exited the Patriot with stolen cash when Nelson Jr. allegedly approached him and fatally shot him.
“I really wanted to put out there that cops did everything they could, and I believe they did it correctly,” Smart said.
A neighbor who responded to last night’s fatal shooting in Blue Lake described a scene of violence and confusion as a man lay dying in the parking lot of a Patriot gas station.
In an interview with the Outpost, the neighbor said law enforcement officers held him and another responding neighbor at gunpoint, preventing them from administering CPR to the gunshot victim. And he said he had no idea that the gas station’s sole attendant last night, 39-year-old Mark Anthony Nelson Jr., would be arrested and accused of killing the man.
The neighbor, Chris “Turtle” Bondy, lives across the street from the gas station. He said he was sitting in his home shortly after 9:30 p.m. when he heard a loud gunshot.
“It was obvious, no denying it was a gunshot,” he said. “It was close enough that I was pretty sure it came from the Patriot.”
Bondy said he spent a few moments hiding in the shadows in his driveway, trying to figure out what was happening, “because I’m not about to get shot,” he said. “I saw a man laying face-down in between the storefront and the gas pumps, so I immediately approached. I got to where I could see he was bleeding out. There was blood and money around him.”
He then saw Nelson Jr., who Bondy knows on a first-name basis.
“It was only the two of us on scene, him and me,” Bondy said. “As I approached I asked Mark, ‘Are you okay?’”
According to Bondy, Nelson Jr. told him that the man had robbed the business and that somebody else shot him, then fled the scene. According to a press release from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, however, Nelson Jr. fled the scene at the outset of the robbery, allowing the man to take cash from the business, then approached him and fatally shot him as he was leaving.
Bondy told the Outpost that he and another neighbor attempted to help the gunshot victim, rolling him over to check his pulse.
“He’s conscious but his pulse is really shallow,” he said. “We started doing chest compressions and applied pressure to the wound.” The man had been shot in his side, apparently hitting one of his lungs. “It was definitely a chest wound,” Bondy said. “Wind seemed to go in through his side. He was breathing very shallow and gasping. His pulse rate was low. The victim was non-responsive. He could not communicate but his eyes were moving.”
Before long, two police cars arrived. (Bondy said he didn’t notice which law enforcement agency they belonged to; the sheriff’s office says it was their criminal investigators.)
“The officers got out and engaged us,” Bondy said. “They came out guns drawn and held us at gunpoint. … They told us to get on the ground with our hands out, essentially stopping us from administering CPR to the victim.”
Bondy has been trained as a first responder, and he said the responding officers allowed three to five minutes to pass without attending to the gunshot victim.
“With someone’s life on the line, that’s too much time to pass,” Bondy said. “Dude was dying. They [the officers] were more focused on us, which is halfway understandable. They have their safety protocols. … But I’m laying there in my freaking pajamas.”
After about five minutes had passed, one of the officers suggested they should start administering CPR, Bondy said.
“At that point, one of them did start doing chest compressions, but it was a little too late, in my opinion,” he said.
Soon thereafter, members of the Blue Lake Volunteer Fire Department showed up. But further life-saving efforts were unsuccessful. Eventually the Coroner’s Office responded and put a blanket over the body, Bondy said.
He told the Outpost that Nelson Jr. said he’d been outside smoking a cigarette when the armed man approached and, with a gun in his hand, announced his intention to rob the place. “He had his COVID mask on,” Bondy said of the alleged robber.
The man also had a realistic-looking handgun, though Bondy heard a law enforcement officer say that a B.B. gun had been found at the scene, he said. He believes the man who robbed the station did so with the B.B. gun. Today the sheriff’s office reported that a stolen firearm “believed to be associated with the homicide” was also recovered at the scene.
Nelson Jr. was arrested and booked into the Humboldt County Correctional Facility on charges of murder, possession of stolen property and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. He is being held without bail pending arraignment. The Coroner’s Office has yet to identify the victim.
When the Outpost first interviewed Bondy, Nelson Jr. had yet to be named as the suspect. After this morning’s press release announcing Nelson Jr.’s arrest, we called Bondy back. He said he had no idea that Nelson Jr. was the alleged shooter.
“He did give a statement that led the police to believe that he was not the shooter,” Bondy said.
Asked if he was surprised to learn of Nelson Jr.’s arrest, Bondy said, “Yes and no. What would you do in a situation if someone pulled a gun on you? I’m surprised it was an illegal firearm, and that he was in violation of parole. And that he would lie about it. But if I had a gun and someone pulled on me, yeah, I wouldn’t go for a kill shot but I’d probably shoot him in the leg or something.”
Bondy said he highly values the local community and is disturbed by recent events, including this one.
“It’s just a tragic thing that in our little Blue Lake, our community has come to this,” he said. “It’s a pretty small town but it’s acting like a city.”
CORRECTION: This post has been updated to employ Bondy’s legal name rather than his social media nickname.