Deputy fatally shot near Fort Bragg; suspect killed in shootout (w/video)

  • Elbert "Bud" Burdick, left, speaks with two Mendocino County SWAT team members to try and gain access to his home nearby where Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputy Ricky Del Fiorentino was shot and killed outside Fort Bragg, Calif., on March 19, 2014. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

A veteran Mendocino County sheriff’s deputy was fatally shot north of Fort Bragg on Wednesday, escalating a massive manhunt for the suspected gunman, who was killed in a shootout with a police officer. The incident closed Highway 1 for hours and put schools and residents on alert.

Deputy Ricky Del Fiorentino, 48, of Fort Bragg died after confronting the suspect on a dirt road in the town of Cleone near MacKerricher State Park, about three miles north of Fort Bragg.

The gunman, identified as Ricardo Antonio Chaney, 32, of Eugene, Ore., opened fire on Del Fiorentino sometime before 11:51 a.m. with an assault rifle while the deputy was still in his patrol car, sheriff’s officials said.

Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputy Fatally Shot


Officials did not say whether the deputy returned fire.

Del Fiorentino, who had a combined 26 years with the Sheriff’s Office and Fort Bragg Police Department, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Chaney was found dead nearby a short while later after a second confrontation and gunbattle with a Fort Bragg police lieutenant who heard the initial gunfire and responded to the area.

Officials initially said Chaney, who suffered at least one gunshot wound, appeared to have taken his own life. Late Wednesday, Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman said, “Our current investigation shows that it was not suicide — that he was killed when Lt. (John) Naulty fired at him.” The sheriff did not provide further details.

Earlier in the evening, a somber and emotional Allman praised Del Fiorentino at a news conference as “a very brave man.”

It was the first fatal shooting of a Mendocino County deputy since April 1995, when Deputy Bob Davis was killed in a shootout in Covelo. Allman said there have been just five fatal shootings of deputies in the county since 1850.

For some, the large law enforcement presence initially brought back memories of the five-week manhunt for Aaron Bassler, the 35-year-old man who in 2011 fatally ambushed two well-known North Coast men, including Jere Melo, Fort Bragg’s former mayor.

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