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Fugitive arrested at Ukiah motel had made suicide threats

A parolee arrested at a Ukiah motel after a tense standoff with Mendocino County authorities had a loaded handgun in his room and repeatedly threatened to take his own life before he finally surrendered Wednesday evening, a sheriff's official said.

Walter Kristopher Miller, 42, eventually agreed to come out peacefully and face arrest on suspicion of attempting to kill a sheriff's deputy. But it wasn't until he was in custody that authorities felt certain there would be no more violence, Mendocino County Sheriff's Lt. Greg Van Patten said.

"He definitely had the capability to shoot it out if he wanted to shoot it out," Van Patten said Thursday.

Miller is being held without bail at the Mendocino County Jail and faces a return to state prison if convicted in the current case.

If, as authorities suspect, he was the man who fired shots at a deputy during a Monday night vehicle pursuit, he already had demonstrated his desire to avoid arrest, Van Patten said.

"Going into this situation, that was the information we had: that he wasn't going to go peacefully," Van Patten said. "And obviously that was in line with the behavior that we saw Monday night, with the deputy getting shot at."

But authorities negotiated with Miller via phone for several hours Wednesday, and he eventually agreed to give up if his Sonoma County parole agent was present.

Authorities say Miller and a second man, Christopher Skaggs, were the occupants of a 1995 Ford Thunderbird that the deputy, a 23-year department veteran, attempted to stop for an expired registration in south Ukiah late Monday night.

A pursuit ensued, during which a passenger in the car, believed to be Miller, fired numerous shots at the pursuing deputy, eventually disabling his car. The deputy was uninjured.

Miller and Skaggs then abandoned the vehicle in a private driveway off Highway 253 in a rural area west of Ukiah and escaped on foot -- Skaggs until he was arrested on a Ukiah street Tuesday morning, and Miller until his arrest Wednesday night.

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