A Sonoma County sheriff's deputy who shot and killed a Novato kidnapping suspect at the end of a 20-mile car chase was cleared of any wrongdoing Tuesday.
The Feb. 28 killing of Richard Shreckengaust, 37, by Deputy Brian Parks was ruled justified because officers feared Shreckengaust was reaching for a weapon inside his car when he was shot, District Attorney Jill Ravitch said in a written statement.
"There was no criminal negligence on the part of any other individual causing Mr. Shreckengaust's death, therefore, no criminal charges are warranted," said Ravitch, whose office conducted an investigation along with Santa Rosa police.
The shooting happened after Shreckengaust picked up a 31-year-old woman he knew in Terra Linda with plans to smoke marijuana and talk, according to the statement. Shreckengaust had a long history of using drugs, primarily methamphetamine, the statement said.
The two drove around for several hours and at one point the woman realized she was not free to go. She told police Shreckengaust became incoherent, threatened her and refused to release her, telling her he was driving her north to Bohemian Grove near the Russian River, the statement said.
During the ordeal, the woman was able to send a text message to a friend, who called police.
Deputies spotted Shreckengaust along the way and began a pursuit, flashing lights and running sirens for him to pull over. During the chase, Shreckengaust talked to dispatchers on the woman's cellphone, saying "You guys are going to do whatever you're going to do to me," and referred to the woman was as a "liability now."
He also produced a glass methamphetamine pipe and lighter and smoked it while driving, prosecutors said.
The chase ended at Odd Fellows Park after Shreckengaust crashed the carthrough three metal gates and became stuck in a ditch.
The woman ran out and Shreckengaust, who remained in the driver's seat, was ordered to place his hands outside the car window and open the door from the outside.
He initially complied but pulled his hands in and out, ignoring repeated commands, the investigation found. Officers sent in a police dog but could not get his cooperation, the prosecutor's report said.
When Shreckengaust lunged toward the passenger side of the car, appearing to at least one deputy to be grabbing something, he was shot three times in the back, according to the findings.
Parks was then an 8?-year veteran of the Sheriff's Office, authorities said at the time.
Deputies attempted first aid after pulling Shreckengaust from the car, but he died of the gunshot wounds.
Toxicology reports showed methamphetamine intoxication was a significant condition, according to the statement.
Santa Rosa police and the District Attorney's Office investigated the case under a county-wide protocol for officer-involved shootings to ensure neutrality.
Shreckengaust's death was the first of three officer-involved shootings in Sonoma County this year. In June, Windsor police officers shot and killed Urbano Moreno Morales, 48, near the Windsor Town Green after he stabbed his 60-year-old former domestic partner. Tuesday's shooting in southwest Santa Rosa was the third such incident this year.
You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or email@example.com.