originally published at: http://www.pressdemocrat.com
Santa Rosa man died in law enforcement fusillade
By JULIE JOHNSON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Published: Monday, November 1, 2010 at 11:13 a.m.
Blue police paint scrawled on the pavement of Hargrave Avenue in southwest Santa Rosa marked one of at least 42 bullets fired in a law-enforcement fusillade that killed a 24-year-old landscaper.
Nicodemus Sullivan of Santa Rosa died Friday after Sonoma County Sheriff’s deputies and a CHP officer opened fire when they apparently thought he had rammed his car into a sheriff’s deputy.
Sullivan, who went by Nic, died from multiple gunshot wounds, according to a preliminary autopsy completed Monday, Santa Rosa Police Lt. Paul Henry said.
Authorities said deputies had been dispatched to the scene to investigate reports that Sullivan had violated the terms of a restraining order keeping him away from his childhood home.
“I know everybody at the house loved him,” said his grandfather, Tom Sullivan, 68, of Santa Rosa. “It’s horrible. You call the authorities because you think they’re smart. You think they’ll take care of the situation.”
Sullivan had been making threats against his stepfather, Santa Rosa police said in a report released late Monday. Police are investigating the shooting, which occurred outside city limits, because of a countywide protocol governing officer-involved shootings that seeks to avoid having agencies investigate conduct of their own officers.
The confrontation occurred when a 911 call was made from the home of Sullivan’s mother and stepfather in a rural neighborhood between Scenic and Millbrae avenues, Henry said.
Sullivan was backing out of his family’s driveway when deputies arrived. He began driving north on Hargrave Avenue and was stopped by several patrol cars heading toward him on the narrow road.
Sullivan didn’t respond when deputies tried to talk to him, police said. Other units were called to assist the deputies. In all, eight deputies, two sergeants and a CHP officer were at the scene, Henry said.
Deputies called for Sullivan to get out of his car, but he refused, Henry said. A sheriff’s patrol car was positioned to the rear of Sullivan’s car.
As deputies, including a dog unit, broke the front right passenger window a deputy discharged a stun gun through the open driver’s side window, Henry said.
Sullivan was hit but not incapacitated, Henry said.
Before a police dog could be sent through the broken passenger window, Sullivan stepped on the accelerator and the car surged forward, Henry said. It sped past one car and struck a patrol car behind it, where a deputy had been standing moments before, and kept going, Henry stated.
Deputies and the CHP officer opened fire, Henry said. They said they believed Sullivan had hit the deputy who had been standing near the patrol car, though that was not the case, according to Henry’s written statement.
Sullivan drove past the line of about 10 patrol vehicles, hitting them as he squeezed past on the narrow road, Henry said.
“He’s running into cars as he goes down, as he’s trying to escape or trying to drive at other deputies,” Henry said.
Deputies and the officer continued firing and Sullivan’s car came to stop.
Sullivan appeared to be reaching down to retrieve something, and the deputies fired multiple additional shots, Henry said in his report. A sheriff’s dog was sent into the vehicle. Deputies and the dog pulled Sullivan from the car, handcuffed him and brought in paramedics, Henry said.
Sullivan was pronounced dead at a local hospital, Henry said.
“I was sleeping and his mom called and she said, ‘I think the cops just killed Nic,’” said his father, Ernie Sullivan, 50, of Richmond. “She was crying. I drove down and saw the street blocked off. They wouldn’t tell me anything.”
The police statement didn’t indicate whether deputies found weapons in Sullivan’s car. Police refused to release the names of the deputies and officer involved.
“We’re conducting a background investigation on the suspect to determine if there’s any threat to the deputies,” Henry said.
Sheriff’s officials’ initial report stated that Sullivan was a known gang member. Sullivan’s family vehemently refuted that claim.
“He wasn’t a gang member,” his mother said. “He wasn’t part of a gang. He didn’t have gang affiliations, he didn’t have gang tattoos.”
According to the police account, witnesses told police Sullivan had been acting “increasingly bizarre.” He talked about the end of the world and had been obsessed with reading the Bible’s Book of Revelations, Henry said.
Sullivan’s father said they discussed the Bible when they last spoke on Thursday night but that the conversation was otherwise normal.
“He was getting ready to vote. He wanted to vote for Jerry Brown. The Giants were doing good, Raiders were doing good, he was sorry he missed an Alice Cooper concert. Just talk like that: family talk,” his father said.
“I was very concerned about my son,” said his mother, Anguleta De Lopez, 45, of Santa Rosa, who was home at the time of the shooting. She wouldn’t go into detail about why she was concerned, but when asked if she feared him, she was adamant: “No,” she said.
“He was a young man trying to find his way in this world and trying to overcome his challenges. And that was my son,” De Lopez said.
Sullivan was due in court Monday for a hearing on charges against him linked to the threats against his stepfather, according to court documents and police.
Sullivan had been arrested Sept. 4 near his family’s house on suspicion of carrying a loaded shotgun. He was barred from possessing firearms by a previous felony conviction for theft.
He was arrested again Oct. 10 at the house for making threats, Henry said, and had been in jail until Thursday when a judge released him.
On Monday, three days after the shooting, a makeshift memorial of roses, candles and Raiders Football gear had been placed among the police paint marking evidence of the shooting.
“He was just a wonderful person,” said a woman at the memorial site who identified herself only as Sullivan’s friend.