I was coming back down the hallway to the studio from our breakroom, bringing Kitty O'Neal a piece of cake (we do monthly celebrations of birthdays and work anniversaries at KFBK, and Kitty had been producing interviews all afternoon and missed out) when I bumped into one of our sales executives, Debbie Pino. She'd just told producer George Sampson that there was something big happening a few miles from our studios and that it appeared to have been an officer-involved shooting.
As soon as we could confirm it, we went on the air with it and then went into what has become an all-too familiar mode: Breaking news of an officer-involved shooting. Within minutes, we learned that the officer was the one who'd been shot, that there was a man in a house with a high-powered rifle, shooting out of the windows at the police officers who were trying to rescue the wounded officer. They, of course, returned fire, hoping to drive the suspect out of the window and give cover to the brave officers who would now risk their own lives in an effort to save hers.
The 200 block of Redwood Avenue, normally a quiet place, was now a war zone, and would remain so for nearly eight hours.
The officers were able to rescue Officer Tara O'Sullivan, but it took 49 minutes. The nearest police armored vehicle had to come from Citrus Heights. She was rushed to UC Davis Medical Center, but scanner traffic brought us officers describing her as having been hit---possibly twice---in an area unprotected by her ballistic vest, and with a shallow pulse.
Meantime, officers did their jobs---evacuating neighbors in the line of fire, engaging the gunman while also attempting to negotiate with him---and we did ours. I stayed with Pat Walsh through 10:00 p.m. Kitty forwarded a phone number that led to a man who'd been driving through the neighborhood and was inadvertently roped into the crime scene, instead of out of it. Reporter Jordan Christmas went to the scene. Anchor Nikka Magahis came to work knowing it would be a rough night with every chance of some very bad news she'd have to tell you.
By now, you know the ending. Officer Tara O'Sullivan, 26 years old, didn't make it. She became the first Sacramento Police Officer to die in the line of duty in 20 years. But she also is the second young female officer in our area to be killed in an ambush in five months and ten days. We lost Davis Officer Natalie Corona on January 10 of this year. She was helping motorists involved in a traffic accident when a bystander shot and killed her---and then took his own life in another lengthy police standoff.
In Officer O'Sullivan's case, she was providing security, with a partner, as a victim of alleged domestic violence packed some belongings to leave her husband. About half an hour in, that husband, a 45-year-old man whom, as I write this, police have not yet identified by name (but the Sacramento Bee has. They've also obtained records indicating a history of domestic violence) , allegedly opened fire with a rifle, wounding and ultimately killing Officer O'Sullivan.
As a society, and as a metropolitan area, our relationship with law enforcement is complicated. Officer O'Sullivan was shot literally minutes after the Placer County District Attorney's office released video of a Rocklin Officer beating an unarmed DUI suspect. A Placer County jury acquitted that officer of use of excessive force a month ago. The D.A. says the videos show why his office, which prosecuted that officer, disagrees with the jury's decision to not hold him criminally responsible.
On Tuesday, the City of Sacramento settled for an undisclosed amount with the family of Stephon Clark, who was shot and killed in March of 2018. Clark was an unarmed black man suspected of vandalism who ran from officers and turned toward them with an object in his hand in a darkened back yard. They thought it was a gun and fired. It turned out to be a cellphone. But an impartial investigation from California Attorney General Xavier Becerra found the officers acted reasonably and could not be held responsible.
Right now, there are 50 law enforcement agencies in this country that are conducting internal investigations after a Center for Investigative Reporting story uncovered police officers allegedly taking part in racist and homophobic websites.
And many of us, including those of us who want every police officer to go home safely to his or her family every night, have concerns about the increasing militarization of our local police forces, who look, are armed like, and act more like soldiers in combat than the friendly cop on the beat that those of us of a certain age remember from TV, movies, and, if we're lucky, real-life encounters.
But last night, it took that kind of militarization to handle what was happening in the 200 block of Redwood Avenue---to rescue Officer O'Sullivan, to evacuate neighbors and innocent bystanders, and to outlast one man with a high-powered rifle and what some might call way too much ammunition until he finally gave himself up.
And frankly, last night, the Sacramento Police Department may not have been militarized enough.
We'll discuss all that---as we always do when these things happen. And they happen too often.
John McGinness' show will be a must-listen hour today between 3 and 4. Kitty and I will follow from 4 to 7 and try to make some sense of it all. I hope you'll join us.
Thank you, Officer O'Sullivan, for your service to your community. Our condolences to your family, friends and fellow officers.