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Police: Man who was shot at by Santa Rosa officer pretended umbrella was a gun

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A man who was shot at by a Santa Rosa police officer Saturday had been pretending his long, black umbrella was a rifle as he pointed it at passing cars, authorities said Tuesday.

As of Tuesday, 10 people who were driving on Guerneville Road on Saturday afternoon have told Santa Rosa detectives that a man raised an object up to his shoulder and pointed it at them as they drove by, making them think that he was pointing a rifle at them, Lt. Dan Marincik said. Joshua Oceguera, a 24-year-old Santa Rosa resident, admitted to officers that he simulated the sound of a firearm as he did so, making noises like “bang bang,” Marincik said. It is still unclear, though, why Oceguera would have been using his umbrella in that way.

Santa Rosa police were notified of Oceguera’s behavior at 12:35 p.m. Saturday, when several people called to report a suspicious individual near Guerneville and Fulton roads. Callers described a white man with short hair wearing a black beanie and shirt pointing what looked like a rifle at cars passing by, Marincik said. They said the man looked down at the object as though he were looking into the barrel of gun and made a “recoil motion,” as though he were firing from a rifle, Marincik said.

Some people told detectives that they swerved or accelerated out of the way, fearing that Oceguera would fire at them, Marincik said. Others said they ducked down in their seats as they passed the suspect.

“They believed that either the suspect was shooting at them or was going to shoot at them,” Marincik said.

Officer Stephen Darden, who has been a Santa Rosa officer for just under a year, responded to the calls and located Oceguera at 12:42 p.m. near Guerneville Road and Sunny View Way, just outside city limits, Marincik said.

Darden exited his car with his department-issued AR-15 rifle. He turned on his emergency lights and, since Oceguera was 90 to 100 yards away, got on his PA system to tell the suspect to show his hands.

Oceguera turned toward Darden, but raised the umbrella up toward his shoulder and took what Darden described as a shooting position, pointing the object at him, Marincik said. Darden, believing Oceguera was going to shoot at him, fired three shots from his rifle at 12:43 p.m. While Darden had been aiming at Oceguera, the shots missed, and nobody was injured by the rounds.

Darden moved out of the way after he fired. When he looked back, Oceguera had extended one of his hands, making Darden realize Oceguera was holding an umbrella and not a rifle, Marincik said.

About a minute later, Santa Rosa Officer Ryan Cadaret arrived while Oceguera left the area, walking west on Guerneville Road, Marincik said. Cadaret and Darden got in their cars to follow the suspect.

The officers caught up with Oceguera between Sunny View Way and Willowside Road, a couple of hundred yards away from where the shooting occurred, Marincik said. Darden got out of his car, ran toward Oceguera and tackled him. The officers handcuffed Oceguera, who was unarmed, and booked him into Sonoma County Jail on charges of criminal threats, brandishing an imitation firearm and assault, Marincik said.

While Oceguera has never been booked into Sonoma County Jail by Santa Rosa officers before, Marincik said the department has had previous contacts with him related to mental health reasons, though he couldn’t go into the specifics given the nature of the incidents.

Darden, who is assigned to day patrol for the Santa Rosa Police Department, has been placed on administrative leave since the incident, per department protocol, Marincik said. Darden started as a department trainee July 2018, up until he was hired full time last December, according to a database by the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training.

Santa Rosa detectives are conducting both a criminal investigation and an administrative review into the incident, Marincik said.

The shooting, however, was not captured by officers’ body-worn cameras. The department was still investigating why Darden’s camera was not activated until Oceguera was being arrested, Marincik said. Santa Rosa officers’ cameras have to be manually activated by tapping a button twice.

You can reach Staff Writer Chantelle Lee at 707‑521-5337 or chantelle.lee@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @ChantelleHLee

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story misstated that Joshua Oceguera was arrested on charges of brandishing a weapon. Oceguera was arrested on charges of brandishing an imitation firearm.

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