SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A sheriff’s deputy was shot and killed and two California Highway Patrol officers were injured while investigating a stolen vehicle ring on Wednesday afternoon.
Sacramento County Sheriff’s deputy Robert “Bob” French died on the way to the hospital after he was shot in the chest by a suspect at the Ramada Inn on Auburn Boulevard.
Two CHP officers involved in the incident were wounded, but are expected to survive.
Earlier in the day, police say two women led them on a 20-mile pursuit in a stolen vehicle into Elk Grove. The women were taken into custody and pointed investigators toward the Ramada Inn as a possible link to more stolen vehicles.
The two CHP officers joined Sacramento County deputies in a probation search at the hotel. When they knocked, a suspect didn’t open the door and instead opened fire from inside, wounding the two officers.
The identities of the two officers have not been released.
After he opened fire on the officers, investigators say the suspect then went to the back and shot from a balcony, striking French who was part of a perimeter.
Sacramento County Sheriff’s spokesman Tony Turnbull says approximately six deputies were at the scene, but did not say how many opened fire on the suspect. The suspect was able to get to a vehicle and flee the scene, leading a pursuit that stretched toward a nearby high school.
The suspect’s vehicle crashed into a utility pole down the street from El Camino Fundamental High School, forcing the school into lockdown just after noon on Thursday as investigators sorted out the scene.
Officers blocked Marsha Atkinson’s home on El Camino Avenue, so she recorded what happened next on her cellphone.
“I couldn’t believe it—in my neighborhood,” she said.
Investigators say the suspect eventually crawled out of the vehicle before he was taken into custody on a stretcher. He has not been identified and is in critical condition from the crash and an unknown number of gunshot wounds. Investigators say he was shot during the pursuit.
Who the suspect is and what connection he has to the two women arrested earlier on Wednesday is still under investigation. Turnbull said investigators believe he may be a 31-year-old male from the Bay Area, but they are not confirming his identity until he is able to be booked into the Sacramento County Jail. That’s unlikely to happen until Thursday.
Investigators say Wednesday’s shootout had some fortunate timing. It happened between the checkout from the previous night and the Wednesday’s check-ins, limiting the number of people who were at the hotel.
In all, six deputies were involved and all have been placed on paid administrative leave while the investigation takes place, which is standard procedure for the sheriff’s department.
Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones announced the passing of French, a 21-year veteran with the department just before 4 p.m. on Wednesday.
“All agencies and departments lost a brother officer,” Jones said. “We’ll survive this, we will, as a community, we’ll survive together. We’ve been through it before, but it is painful. It will take a period of grieving. And we will come together and through it with courage and resolve.”
French was a training officer with the sheriff’s department. He is survived by three adult children, his grandchildren, his sister and a live-in girlfriend.
Jones said the shooting is another example of the dangers law enforcement officers face, and one that was difficult to avoid in this case.
“The reality is if someone’s willing to take that first shot, there’s very little we can do in self-defense,” he said.
Neighbors describe French as a devoted patrolman who always looked on the bright side.
French’s death comes on the 10-year anniversary of his parents’ death in a plane crash at the Cameron Park airport.