Sonoma County sheriff’s deputies shot a wrong-way driver who rammed three deputies in a Sebastopol parking lot after a high-speed chase that started Wednesday night when she was spotted driving in reverse on Highway 101 in Windsor, authorities said.
The driver, who police identified as Karen Janks, 46, was shot an unknown number of times and was undergoing treatment at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, sheriff’s Lt. Darin Dougherty said. Police officials Thursday morning described her injuries as life-threatening.
Two deputies struck by the car suffered minor injuries and a third was treated and released from a hospital. No further information on their conditions was available.
Santa Rosa Police Lt. Rainer Navarro said Janks was a transient from elsewhere in the Bay Area, and that it was unclear what brought her to Sonoma County.
“The driver was driving erratically upward of 100 mph on the highway,” Navarro said. “At one point she was driving backwards, which is dangerous in itself.”
The deputies who shot at the woman are assigned to the Windsor Police Department, which contracts with the Sheriff’s Office to provide police services. The deputies were identified by the Sheriff’s Office as Joel Pedersen, James Falberg, Lawrence Matelli, and Daniel Edwards. Pedersen is a 24-year veteran of the department and Falberg has been with the Sheriff’s Office for nine years. Both Matelli and Edwards were hired from other law enforcement agencies, Matelli three years ago and Edwards one-and-a-half years ago, spokeswoman Sgt. Cecile Focha said.
Thursday morning, yellow police tape cordoned off a large area where Old Gravenstein Highway meets Highway 116. The Sonoma County sheriff’s helicopter buzzed above, taking aerial photographs of the scene. The shooting occurred in a parking lot of a business park behind the Antique Society.
The incident began at 11:46 p.m. Wednesday when a 911 caller reported seeing an Infiniti sedan driving in reverse on Highway 101 near Windsor, Navarro said. The caller said the 1996 car was traveling south in the northbound lanes and then made a U-turn and exited the highway in Windsor.
Five minutes later, a deputy saw an Infiniti run a red light on Old Redwood Highway near Starr Road in Windsor and tried to pull the driver over, Dougherty said. The motorist didn’t stop, speeding away on Highway 101.
The deputy pursued the car as it headed south, called for backup and alerted the Santa Rosa Police Department and CHP.
“At one point the deputies tried to use a spike strip (to stop her), but that was unsuccessful,” Navarro said.
With lights flashing and sirens sounding, deputies followed the Infiniti off the highway at Todd Road and continued on the rural route from southwest Santa Rosa to the Sebastopol area. The road narrows, with deep culverts on each side instead of shoulders, and includes straightaways and sharp 90-degree turns among cow pastures.
The driver turned right on Old Gravenstein Highway, turned into the business park parking lot of 2661 Gravenstein Highway and stopped, Navarro said. Deputies reported to dispatchers the “termination of pursuit,” meaning the vehicle pulled into the parking lot and stopped, at 12:06 a.m., Navarro said. The Sheriff’s Office requested an ambulance respond to the area at 12:07 a.m., emergency dispatchers said.
The deputies ordered the driver, who was the only one in the car, to surrender, officials said.
“She put the vehicle in reverse and struck the deputies, knocked them to the ground,” and also hit a patrol car, Navarro said.
Multiple deputies fired several rounds into the vehicle, hitting her an unspecified number of times.
“The vehicle stopped and the deputies pulled the driver out of the vehicle and tried to administer first aid and CPR,” Navarro said.
An ambulance crew took the woman to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital at 12:23 a.m., according to police and emergency dispatch reports.
Navarro said he did not yet know if any of the deputies who fired their weapons were also the ones struck by the driver.
He asked anyone with information about Janks, the car she was driving or the case to call 707-543-3590.
The Santa Rosa Police Department’s violent crimes team was brought in to investigate the shooting because of the countywide protocol that calls for another area law enforcement agency to investigate officer-involved shootings. Sonoma County District Attorney investigators were also at the scene, Navarro said.
You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @jjpressdem.