Mendocino County authorities have found themselves in the throes of a rural manhunt again, this time in search of a parolee suspected of shooting at a sheriff's deputy during a Monday night vehicle pursuit outside Ukiah.
Walter Kristopher Miller, 42, is believed to be armed and dangerous, and likely in possession of at least one of five firearms stolen earlier in the night from a Potter Valley home, before a routine traffic stop launched what became a potentially deadly chase.
A second man, Christopher Skaggs, 30, is in custody after his capture in Ukiah on Tuesday morning, authorities said.
Skaggs is held without bail after his arrest on a host of criminal charges, including suspected attempted murder of a peace officer, felony evasion and conspiracy.
The Monday night pursuit and shooting drew law enforcement officers from two counties into a rugged area of rural Mendocino County west of Ukiah in a case reminiscent of a 2011 search for a two-time killer near Fort Bragg.
Santa Rosa police and the U.S. Marshal's Office, among other agencies, remained involved in the search for Miller on Tuesday, Mendocino County sheriff's officials said.
Miller is believed to have numerous ties to Sonoma County and was arrested there for parole violation three times last year, Sheriff Tom Allman said.
"He's extremely dangerous," Allman said during a news conference Tuesday.
Allman said the round-the-clock search was being conducted with a level of care informed by a five-week search in the woods outside Fort Bragg, where a man who had fatally shot two men over 16 days in August 2011 was eventually shot and killed himself. In an earlier episode, the suspect, Aaron Bassler, had opened fire on several deputies indicating, authorities said at the time, that he might be surrendering.
Allman said one lesson learned from the Bassler case was "not to rush into a situation, but be methodical.
"If we have a man with a gun in the woods, we're certainly not going to rush in," he said. "We have the experience and the ability to catch him, but we're going to do it in a safe way. No one has been hurt in this investigation so far."
The Monday night shooting resulted from a deputy's attempt to pull over a Ford Thunderbird with an expired registration shortly before 10 p.m. on South State Street in Ukiah, near the local airport, the sheriff's office said.
The driver, later determined to be Skaggs, pulled over but then sped away as the deputy approached the window, initiating a pursuit through the south part of town at speeds of 80 to 90 mph, authorities said.
The vehicle headed west on Highway 253 and slowed to closer to 50 or 60 mph but was weaving around cars on the winding road, authorities said.
At some point, the sedan's passenger, believed to be Miller, leaned out the window from a distance of about 35 yards and fired five or six shots at the pursuing deputy, authorities said. Detectives said the driver was entering opposing lanes at the time and appeared to be steering in a manner that allowed his passenger a better shot.
Allman said authorities believe Miller was using a 9mm semi-automatic pistol and 30-round magazine taken from the Potter Valley home and that he only stopped shooting because the weapon jammed.