Sonoma County sheriff’s deputies shot and critically injured a wrong-way driver who rammed three deputies in a Sebastopol parking lot after a high-speed chase that started Wednesday night when the woman was spotted driving in reverse on Highway 101 in Windsor, authorities said.
The driver, whom police identified as Karen Janks, 46, was shot an unknown number of times and was undergoing treatment at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, sheriff’s Lt. Darin Dougherty said. Police said the driver’s injuries were life-threatening.
Janks’ mother, reached at home late Thursday, said she understood her daughter’s prospects for survival were not good.
Two deputies struck by the car suffered minor injuries and a third was treated and released from a hospital, officials said. No further information on their conditions was available.
Santa Rosa Police Lt. Rainer Navarro said Janks was a transient from elsewhere in the Bay Area and that it was unclear what brought her to Sonoma County.
But her mother, Gail Janks of San Mateo, disputed that characterization and said her daughter, an optician and the mother of a 19-year-old woman, had recently moved to Santa Cruz after a run of bad luck that included the loss of a job she had held for several years at a San Francisco optometry office, the loss of her home, and problems being paid at a new job she had obtained after resettling.
She said her daughter may simply have gotten in her car “and just driven. She might have just wanted to get away.”
A Feb. 12 roadside video Janks posted of herself on YouTube, soulfully singing a New Testament ballad, “was how she prayed,” her mother said.
“It was a series of events that left her vulnerable,” Gail Janks said. “And this is very sad, very sad. She’s a beautiful, smart woman.”
In the minutes preceding the shooting, Janks was observed “driving erratically, upward of 100 mph, on the highway,” said Navarro, whose agency has taken over the investigation under the countywide law enforcement critical incident protocol. “At one point, she was driving backwards, which is dangerous in itself.”
Three of the four deputies involved in the incident are assigned to the Windsor Police Department, which contracts with the Sheriff’s Office to provide police services. They were identified by the Sheriff’s Office as Deputies James Falberg, Lawrence Matelli and Daniel Edwards.
The fourth, Deputy Joel Pedersen, is a 24-year department veteran assigned to the main office, department spokeswoman Sgt. Cecile Focha said.
Falberg has been with the Sheriff’s Office for nine years. Both Matelli and Edwards were hired from other law enforcement agencies — Matelli three years ago and Edwards a year and a half ago, Focha said.
On Thursday morning, yellow police tape cordoned off a large area where Old Gravenstein Highway meets Highway 116. The Sonoma County sheriff’s helicopter buzzed above, taking aerial photographs of the scene. The shooting occurred in a parking lot of a business park behind the Antique Society.
The incident began at 11:46 p.m. Wednesday when a 911 caller reported seeing an Infiniti sedan driving in reverse on Highway 101 near Windsor, Navarro said. The caller said the 1996 G20 four-door car was traveling south in the northbound lanes and then made a U-turn and exited the highway in Windsor.
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