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Handyman caught up in Fort Bragg shooting scene

  • Fermin Baeza locks a chain across the driveway to the property where Ricardo Antonio Chaney was shot and killed by a Fort Bragg police lieutenant after fatally shooting Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputy Ricky Del Fiorentino outside Fort Bragg, Calif., on March 20, 2014. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

FORT BRAGG — A handyman who touched off a manhunt Wednesday for a second suspect in the killing of a Mendocino County sheriff's deputy recalled Thursday the roughly two hours he spent fearing for his life, as well as the tense moments in which armed officers kicked down the door of the pump house where he was hiding and handcuffed him at gunpoint.

Fermin Baeza, 45, of Fort Bragg was about 30 feet from the fatal shooting of Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputy Ricky Del Fiorentino. For a couple of hours, he was considered a possible second suspect after a law enforcement officer observed him running from the scene as he tried to take cover.

"They took me because they weren't sure what I was doing," Baeza said of his arrest.

Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputy Fatally Shot

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Baeza said he was moving a wheelbarrow full of wood for the owner of a property adjacent to the Park Drive crime scene when he heard gunfire erupt just before noon.

Baeza, who had returned to the property Thursday to lock up some tools that had been left out overnight, said trees and bushes obscured any view he might have had of Del Fiorentino's fatal encounter with Ricardo Antonio Chaney of Eugene, Ore.

He pointed to some bushes where he got down on the ground to hide before calling 911.

"I told the lady, &‘I'm scared,'" he said. He said he told the emergency dispatcher he was going to take refuge in a pump house a few yards away after he saw the suspect running.

He said he hung up the phone and expected the dispatcher to call him back.

Instead, his next contact with law enforcement came between 90 minutes and two hours later when law enforcement officers kicked in the pump house door and aimed their weapons at him.

Baeza said it was terrifying because he wasn't sure at first whether it was police or the "bad guy."


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