BAKERSFIELD — The Kern County coroner’s office released the identity of a man shot and killed by a sheriff’s deputy during a Sept. 3 altercation on Highway 14 and Redrock Randsburg Road as Lancaster resident Fernando Napoles, 37.
Sheriff Donny Youngblood reviewed the incident during a Friday, Sept. 18 news conference, as well as a second unrelated officer-involved shooting that occurred Sept. 15 in Oildale.
According to Youngblood, KCSO Deputy Christopher Saldana responded to a dispatch call at around 6:50 a.m. on Sept. 3 of a man armed with a rifle in the Randsburg area near Highway 14 and two vehicles on the highway.
“Deputy Saldana responded and found the first vehicle, got out and found that the vehicle was stolen but had no one around it,” Youngblood said. Upon approaching the second vehicle a short distance up the road, the suspect, later identified as Napoles, exited.
“He challenged the deputy to a fight and started advancing upon the deputy,” Youngblood said. “The deputy retreated and the suspect ran back to his vehicle. The deputy tried to contact him again before he got back the vehicle.”
Youngblood said the suspect retrieved a shotgun from the vehicle and pointed it at Saldana. The deputy fired at the suspect and retreated to the back of his patrol car while the suspect jumped in his own vehicle with the shotgun still pointed at the deputy.
The deputy kept firing at the suspect, according to Youngblood. California Highway Patrol officers arrived on scene shortly after the exchange and found Napoles in the back of his vehicle dead from the deputy’s fire.
Youngblood said the deputy’s dashboard cam captured some of the altercation but provided little context.
“The video doesn’t really show a lot, it’s from a dash cam on the deputy’s car,” Youngblood said. “If you could blow it up, you could see that shots were fired, but there wasn’t much value from the camera.”
KCSO detectives assume the investigation and Saldana was placed on administrative leave per depart policy until the shooting could be reviewed.
Youngblood said he expects Saldana to return to duty in the next few days.
The second officer-involved shooting in Oildale involved a KCSO deputy who was responding to a suspicious vehicle in a neighborhood. Deputy Ubaldo Weiss was the first deputy to respond on scene, where he confirmed the vehicle was stolen.
According to Youngblood, two suspects were in the vehicle, causing Weiss to retreat to behind his patrol car door until backup arrived to continue the investigation.
“While he was there, he was trying to be aware of his surroundings, he heard a noise and he looked behind and a subject was running full speed at Deputy Weiss with something in his hand,” Youngblood said, adding the item the suspect held was believed to be a weapon.
Weiss ordered the suspect to stop but failed to comply, Youngblood said.
“He got very close to Deputy Weiss and Deputy Weiss fired a round,” Youngblood said. Weiss fired a second round when the suspect struck the deputy; the man was then detained and taken to an area hospital for medical treatment.
The shooting was non-fatal and the suspect, later identified as 31-year-old Ricardo Usher, was still recovering from his injuries as of Sept. 18. Usher faces charges of interfering with a peace officer and using violence was full force.
Body camera footage, without sound, showed Usher running toward the deputy and then turning his shoulder as if to impact the deputy. According to Youngblood, the item in Usher’s hand was later confirmed as a cellphone.
Youngblood said deputy believed at the time Usher’s actions were related to the stolen vehicle, but was later confirmed to be likely unrelated.
“Why the suspect did what he did I can’t answer that question,” Youngblood said.
Weiss was placed on administrative leave pending review of the shooting incident.
‘Concern officers' safety’
Youngblood noted the two incidents, especially the involving Weiss, have prompted concerns in recent weeks over ambushes on law enforcement officers nation-wide. He said those incidents have made deputies more aware of their surroundings.
When asked how a civilian should approach officers in precarious situations, Youngblood added there are simple methods to avoid confrontations with officers during investigations.
“I suggest they don’t run, first of all,” he said. “At 1:30 in the morning, I certainly believe you could use voice to contact someone The officers are not going to shoot somone that walks up to them to ask a question. I think we’re very reasonable.”
He added the bodycam footage from the Oildale incident shows how unreasonable Usher’s actions were.
“There is no logic to what the suspect did,” Youngblood said.
Youngblood added his department understands the consequences of an officer-involved shooting.
“When you pull the trigger in this business a lot of things are going to happen, none of them good,” Youngblood said. “We all know that. You are going to be subject to a lawsuit or subject to scrutiny by the sheriff, the media or the public. ... We accept that and hold them accountable when they do something wrong.”
Youngblood stressed the deputy’s action comes as part of the training.
“There are ambushes that have occurred across this country on police officers,” Youngblood said. “It’s unacceptable. We are not going to allow a supsect to hurt us if we can prevent it. With what’s going on in our world, we are taking extraordinary precautions about how we do business.”
One of the most recent occurrences of ambushes on officers occurred Sept. 12 in Compton, when two Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies were shot in the head while sitting in their patrol car near the Compton metro station. Both deputies were taken to the hospital and treated for their injuries. One was released from the hopsital Sept. 16, while another still remains in intensive care.
He added “it’s not business as usual and we are going to protect ourselves first.” Youngblood also stressed it’s important his officers are protected, trained and have the equipment needed when they respond to a call for service.”