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A Short History Of Fatal Encounters With Shasta County Law Enforcement

Two weeks ago, a Redding Police Department officer shot and killed unarmed Donnell James Lang, 48, in the quiet suburban Hacienda Heights neighborhood where I work.

I get off work at 3:05, so I missed the incident, which occurred about a half hour later when local residents reported that Lang, who lives near the vicinity, was acting suspiciously and carrying a handgun in his waistband.

According to the police report, when confronted by RPD officer Rob Peterson, Lang reluctantly submitted to instructions to lie face down on the ground. But as Peterson attempted to cuff Lang, the suspect tried to stand up and break free. Peterson’s partner, who was standing by with a rifle and believed Lang was armed, shot and killed Lang.

Although several witnesses claimed Lang had a gun, no weapon has been found, despite an extensive search.

The scene was scrubbed clean by the time I arrived at work the next morning. I didn’t find out that a third person had been killed by Shasta County law enforcement officers in 2019 until a co-worker informed me about the incident.

Lang’s death was the fifth fatal encounter between a citizen and Shasta County law enforcement officials in the past eight months.

Last August, a white male transient wielding a knife and obstructing traffic was shot dead by four Redding Police officers wielding guns. Another white male was shot and killed after allegedly stealing a car in December. In January, a shoot-out with police resulted in the death of a Pacific Islander/Asian man accused of domestic violence. In March, an alleged drunk driver with a gun was fatally shot in a backyard after fleeing arrest. And now Lang.

If it seems like there’s been a lot more fatal encounters between members of the public and Shasta County law enforcement officers lately, that’s because Shasta County is on a record-setting pace.

In 2014, four citizens were killed by Shasta County law enforcement officials, the highest total in the past two decades. Just one person was killed in 2015, but local police killed three citizens in both 2016 and 2017. Two people were killed in 2018. And three so far this year.

Nationally, more than 1,000 people are killed in fatal encounters with law enforcement officials annually. But while the FBI collects detailed data on violent crimes such as rape and murder, it doesn’t keep close tabs on deaths caused by police officers. In fact, until relatively recently, no comprehensive database tracking fatal encounters with law enforcement officers in the United States existed.

My friend and colleague D. Brian Burghart, an award-winning lifelong journalist, has done much to turn this state of affairs around.

Five years ago, perplexed by the lack of a comprehensive national database on deaths caused by police, Burghart decided to create his own. Thus, the Fatal Encounters project was born, with the goal of cataloging every fatal encounter with law enforcement in the United States since the year 2000.

Full disclosure, I worked as a paid researcher for Fatal Encounters during its early days, sifting the internet state-by-state for fatal incidents involving police. It was grim work. After 100 or so cases, it becomes clear that police officers have the toughest job in the United States, and are often called upon to handle problems society can’t or hasn’t been willing to solve, such as mental illness and drug abuse.

In 2017, Burghart and crew succeeded in cataloging most, if not all of the fatal encounters between citizens and law enforcement since 2000. Fatal Encounters adds new incidents as they occur. Today, nearly 25,000 fatal encounters are listed on the nonprofit website, which is supported by private donations.

Thirty-five of those fatal encounters since 2000 occurred in Shasta County. According to data culled from the website, Shasta County is ranked No. 2 in the state for fatal police encounters per capita, behind only Tulare County.

Below you’ll find the 35 fatal encounters between law enforcement and citizens that have occurred in Shasta County since 2000, listed chronologically from earliest to latest. I’ve cross-checked each case with local news reports, and in some incidents I’ve added any new information that has become available to the summary description.

In general, you’ll find that the majority of the people killed by police in Shasta County were white, though race is not disclosed in some cases. Roughly one third of those killed were suffering from some sort of mental illness. More than half were known criminals armed with a firearm or a knife. There was only one female death, a suicide while in police custody.

Not all the incidents are shootings. In some cases, the victim succumbed to injuries received during apprehension. In others, the death results from a car chase.

Whether any of these deaths could have been prevented is up to the reader to decide.

Name withheld by police
53, Male, Race unspecified
Date of Injury Resulting in Death: 7/1/2000
Location: Whistling Drive, Redding, CA 96003
Cause of Death: Drug overdose
Agency: Redding Police Department
Summary Description: Police responded to a call from a wife reporting her husband was mentally distressed and armed at a house on Whistling Drive in Redding. At some point during a three-hour standoff, the man died of a drug overdose, while still holding a handgun.

Raymond Sisneros
31, Male, European-American/White
Date of Injury Resulting in Death: 12/19/2002
Location: 900 Dana Dr., Redding, CA 96003
Cause of Death: Gunshot
Agency: Redding Police Department
Summary Description: Officer Charlie Travelstead, three days from retirement, shot Raymond Sisneros outside the Rusty Nail after Sisneros shot at three people, wounding one of them.

Pablo Valladares Gomez

20s, Male, Hispanic/Latino
Date of Injury Resulting in Death: 9/16/2003
Location: , Shingletown, CA 96059
Cause of Death: Gunshot
Agency: Redding Police Department
Summary Description: Officers Eric Wallace, Jeff Wallace and David Schultz shot and killed Mexican nationals Raul Chavez Rivera and Pablo Valladares Gomez, who allegedly fired at police during a multi-agency marijuana garden raid near Manton.

Raul Chavez Rivera
20s, Male, Hispanic/Latino
Date of Injury Resulting in Death: 9/16/2003
Location: , Shingletown, CA 96059
Cause of Death: Gunshot
Agency: Redding Police Department
Summary Description: Officers Eric Wallace, Jeff Wallace and David Schultz shot and killed Mexican nationals Raul Chavez Rivera and Pablo Valladares Gomez, who allegedly fired at police during a multi-agency marijuana garden raid near Manton.

Tim Torchia
36, Male, European-American/White
Date of Injury Resulting in Death: 9/16/2003
Location: Akard Avenue, Redding, CA 96001
County or Parish: Shasta
Cause of Death: Gunshot
Agency: Redding Police Department
Summary Description: Torchia was riding his bike late at night dressed in dark clothing. RPD officer Chris Jacoby attempted to stop Torchia, who attempted to flee on his bike. Torchia abandoned the bike and began banging on doors seeking shelter. Jacoby stated that Torchia had what looked like a holster and was reaching for his waistband, so Jacoby shot him four or five times. No weapon or holster was found.

Timothy Alan Brandon
40, Male, Race unspecified
Date of Injury Resulting in Death: 3/18/2004
Location: Sacramento Drive, Redding, CA 96001
Cause of Death: Gunshot
Agency: Redding Police Department
Summary Description: RPD responded to a report that Brandon was armed and suicidal. Three RPD officers, Walt Bullington, Eric Little and present RPD chief Roger Moore, shot and killed Brandon outside his home when he waved a 9 mm handgun at the officers and refused to drop it. In 2007, the city of Redding settled a wrongful death suit brought by Brandon’s children for $90,000.

Curtis C. Dring Jr.
56, Male, Race unspecified
Date of Injury Resulting in Death: 4/18/2004
Location: 1200 – 1400 block North Blvd., Shasta Lake, CA 96019
Cause of Death: Beaten/Bludgeoned with instrument
Agency: Shasta County Sheriff’s Office, Union Pacific Railroad Police
Summary Description: Dring, who was believed to be a danger to himself, died after a struggle with Sgt. Mark Von Rader, Deputy Suzanne “Bille” Cobb and Union Pacific Railroad inspector Randy Anderson near the railroad tracks. Dring was beaten with batons during the incident and died later at Redding Medical Center.

Khamhane Philapandeth

Khamhane Philapandeth
23, Male, Asian/Pacific Islander
Date of Injury Resulting in Death: 5/18/2004
Location: 2100 Redding Rancheria Rd., Redding, CA 96001
Cause of Death: Asphyxiated/Restrained
Agency: Shasta County Sheriff’s Office
Summary Description: Khamhane Philapandeth died in custody during a confrontation with deputy Gregory Dean. Philapandeth was thrown to the ground, pinned to the floor, pepper-sprayed, struck with the pepper spray canister and had his legs bent up against his back for several minutes. Dean, who either quit or was forced to resign from the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office immediately after the incident, was convicted of assault and served four months in jail. Philapandeth’s family received $390,000 from Shasta County in a wrongful death lawsuit in 2005.

Linda Lee Wood
54, Female, Race unspecified
Date of Injury Resulting in Death: 12/16/2004
County or Parish: Shasta
Cause of Death: Gunshot
Agency: Redding Police Department
Summary Description: Linda Lee Wood, the wife of a prominent Redding businessman, killed herself after officer Eric Little and investigator Robert Wilson came to her home to arrest her on charges of embezzlement. The officers permitted Wood to go upstairs to change clothes, where, out of sight of the officers, she shot herself with a handgun.

Nathaniel Bryan Tipp
18, Male, Race unspecified
Date of Injury Resulting in Death: 4/3/2005
Location: Creekside St. and Girvan Rd., Redding, CA 96001
Cause of Death: Vehicle
Agency: Redding Police Department
Summary Description: Nathaniel Bryan Tipp was killed when he crashed into an electrical box and a fire hydrant on Girvan Road after a brief police chase.

Brandon Michael Reuter
20, Male, European-American/White
Date of Injury Resulting in Death: 12/7/2009
Location: 570 Cypress Ave, Redding, CA 96001
Cause of Death: Gunshot
Agency: Redding Police Department
Summary Description: Reuter, an honor student with no previous criminal history, allegedly robbed Plumas bank and fled on foot. Officers cornered the suspect, and released a police dog. Reuter allegedly threatened the dog with a BB gun that looked like a 9mm, and officers shot the suspect. The official inquiry determined that 46 rounds were shot by the officers, 14 of which struck the suspect. Reuter’s mother contacted police a month before the incident because her son was depressed and suicidal. He received a 72-hour mental health evaluation and was released.

Gregorio Arguetta Estrada
47, Male, Hispanic/Latino
Date of Injury Resulting in Death: 12/15/2009
Location: 37131 Main St., Burney, CA 96013
Cause of Death: Gunshot
Agency: Shasta County Sheriff’s Office
Summary Description: SWAT team deputy Jason Gassaway and Detective Troy Clegg shot and killed Gregorio Arguetta Estrada, who reportedly fired at officers after he’d shot two bank customers and held tellers hostage for three hours in a Main Street bank.

Jose Venavides

Jose Venavides
54, Male, Hispanic/Latino
Date of Injury Resulting in Death: 3/7/2011
Location: S. Market Street and Elmwood Street, Redding, CA 96001
Cause of Death: Gunshot
Agency: Redding Police Department
Summary Description: During a traffic stop, Venavides allegedly shot an officer in the arm with a .45 caliber handgun. The injured officer’s partner then shot the suspect in the head four times. Venavides, a Redding resident, had a criminal history including assault and drug charges dating to 1994.

Kenny Ray Wilson

Kenny Ray Wilson
41, Male, Native American/Alaskan
Date of Injury Resulting in Death: 8/4/2011
Location: 3101 South Market Street, Redding, CA 96001
Cause of Death: Gunshot
Agency: Redding Police Department
Summary Description: Wilson was wanted for multiple counts of armed robbery. Police went to a house he was believed to be staying at and attempted to serve a warrant. Ray fled, pulled a gun and began firing at pursuing officers. The officers returned fire, killing Wilson.

James Thomas Jobe
26, Male, European-American/White
Date of Injury Resulting in Death: 10/25/2011
Location: I-5 and Oasis Road, Redding, CA 96003
Cause of Death: Gunshot
Agency: Shasta County Sheriff’s Office
Summary Description: Sergeant Troy Clegg shot James Thomas Jobe in the head after he tried to take deputy Justin Reynolds’ service weapon and hit him in the head with a baton on the side of the highway. Jobe was a convicted felon with a history of methamphetamine possession and weapons charges.

Scott Joseph Deen
19, Male, European-American/White
Date of Injury Resulting in Death: 6/22/2012
Location: Canyon Rd & Valley View Rd, Redding, CA 96007
Cause of Death: Gunshot
Agency: Redding Police Department
Summary Description: Law enforcement investigators say Deen and two other men were siphoning gasoline from cars parked in the neighborhood off Highway 273 near Win-River Casino. Three RPD officers, Jon Poletski, Jared Herbert and Robert Garnero, used a stun gun at least twice on Deen after he came at them with a knife, according to the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office, which handled the investigation into the shooting. Not fazed by the stun gun, Deen tried to stab an officer with a knife that was attached to his hand with an elastic bandage before Poletski fired two rounds, striking Deen once.

Scott Everett Wininger

Scott Everett Wininger
44, Male, European-American/White
Date of Injury Resulting in Death: 10/5/2012
Location: 2605 Lake Redding Drive, Redding, CA 96003
Cause of Death: Tasered
Agency: Redding Police Department
Summary Description: Scott Everett Wininger reportedly went into cardiac arrest and stopped breathing after he was tasered during an altercation with officers Justin Duval and Jared Hebert the evening of October 3. He died two days later in the hospital. An autopsy concluded that the toxic levels of methamphetamine in Wininger’s blood may have contributed to his death.

John Sebastian Snider
38, Male, European-American/White
Date of Injury Resulting in Death: 7/17/2013
Location: 3200 block Briarwood Drive, Anderson, CA 96007
Cause of Death: Gunshot
Agency: Shasta County Sheriff’s Office
Summary Description: Anderson Police responding to a domestic abuse complaint encountered Snider, who was armed with a handgun and a shogun, at his apartment in Happy Valley. Snider refused to come out and opened fire with the shotgun as seven Shasta County SWAT members approached the apartment. The seven team members returned fire, killing Snider. Shasta County Sheriff’s Office SWAT members included Sgt. James Beaupre, Det. David Eoff, deputy Cary Erickson, deputy Tom Fleming, Sgt. Eric Magrini, Det. Gene Randall and Det. Nick Thompson were involved in the incident.

Casey Crye
33, Male, European-American/White
Date of Injury Resulting in Death: 8/28/2013
Location: 8910 Maynard Rd, Palo Cedro, CA 96073
Cause of Death: Vehicle
Agency: Shasta County Sheriff’s Office
Summary Description: Casey Crye, 33, was allegedly speeding on his motorcycle and refused to pull over for a Sacramento Sheriff’s Office deputy. As he was fleeing, he lost control of the motorcycle and crashed through a white picket fence. He succumbed to the injuries from the crash.

Steven Anthony Motley

Steven Anthony Motley
33, Male, European-American/White
Date of Injury Resulting in Death: 10/5/2013
Location: 4600 block Alta Saga Drive, Redding, CA 96001
Cause of Death: Cardiac arrest after severe beating
Agency: Redding Police Department
Summary Description: Redding police were chasing Motley, who was allegedly driving a stolen pickup. He crashed, got out on foot, circled around and stole a Redding police cruiser. Five police officers eventually found him in a backyard and severely beat Motley with batons in addition to tasing him. Then they noticed Motley wasn’t breathing. He died three days later. Motley’s family filed a wrongful death suit against the city of Redding. The five officers involved in the incident were cleared of any wrongdoing by then District Attorney Steven Carlton. The coroner found methamphetamine abuse make have contributed to Motley’s death by cardiac arrest.

Darryl Brice Cunningham
48, Male, African-American/Black
Date of Injury Resulting in Death: 3/29/2014
Location: 900 S Market Street, Redding, CA 96001
Cause of Death: Drowned
Agency: Redding Police Department
Summary Description: Cunningham was fleeing on foot from police who were attempting to serve him with a warrant for alleged domestic violence. He jumped off the Market Street Bridge into the Sacramento river to avoid arrest and drowned. His body was found two weeks later.

Ray Dakota Scholfield
23, Male, Native American/Alaskan
Date of Injury Resulting in Death: 6/20/2014
Location: 1616 Willis Street, Redding, CA 96001
Cause of Death: Gunshot
Agency: Redding Police Department
Summary Description: Scholfield stabbed his cousin, Christen Allenclark, with a butcher knife, killing her in her residence. Three Redding police officers confronted him in the front yard of the home. Scholfield brandished the knife and refused police orders. The three officers shot him and he died at the scene.

Matthew Robinson
33, Male, European-American/White
Date of Injury Resulting in Death: 7/27/2014
Location: 2750 Eureka Way, Redding, CA 96001
Cause of Death: Medical emergency
Agency: Redding Police Department
Summary Description: Robinson was being transported to Restpadd Psychiatric in Redding, CA. Law enforcement was called to assist. Upon removal from the transport vehicle, he punched an officer in the face. He was then taken to the ground where he continued to resist until other officers could help take him into custody. A short time later, officers recognized he was not breathing. Officers attempted CPR before he was transported to Mercy Medical Center, where he died one week later. Robinson’s parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the RPD, seeking $20 million in damages.

Erik Charles Lebak
32, Male, European-American/White
Date of Injury Resulting in Death: 8/28/2014
Location: 28000 Fig Tree Lane, Redding, CA 96002
Cause of Death: Gunshot
Agency: Redding Police Department
Summary Description: Lebak, the son of a retired RPD captain, posted several suicidal messages on social media and two Shasta County Sheriff officers responded to his address. Lebak was armed with a handgun and a shotgun and allegedly shot at the officers. The two Shasta County Sheriff officers, Sgt. Rob Sandbloom and Deputy Gerry Maul, returned fire, killing Lebak.

Tim Kyle Torngren
55, Male, European-American/White
Date of Injury Resulting in Death: 9/22/2015
Location: 6720 Odessa Way, Anderson, CA 96007
Cause of Death: Gunshot
Agency: Shasta County Sheriff’s Office
Summary Description: The deputies were called out to the home to check on Torngren after he sent suicidal letters to his daughter. Initial reports indicate Torngren was outside his home with a long gun and a handgun, which he pointed in the air. He was shot and killed. The Shasta County District Attorney found that self-defense justified the deputies’ actions.

Stephen John Bukwich

Stephen John Bukwich
52, Male, European-American/White
Date of Injury Resulting in Death: 1/5/2016
Location: 273 Boulder Creek Road, Redding, CA 96003
Cause of Death: Gunshot
Agency: Redding Police Department
Summary Description: Redding police officers responded to multiple calls that said 6-8 gunshots had been fired at an apartment complex. Officers arrived and found Stephen John Bukwich, 52, inside apartment #A. Officers spoke with Bukwich via a patrol car PA system. Police said Bukwich would open the door to the apartment briefly and yell at officers. Police said that witnesses told them he was upset about recent legislation regarding gun laws passed by President Barack Obama. Officials said Bukwich was not cooperative when asked to come out of his apartment with his hands up. Less lethal methods were attempted, but eventually nine officers fired at Bukwich with handguns and rifles, striking him multiple times and killing him. Bukwich had a long history of mental illness related to a thyroid condition.

Edmund Charles Leighty Sr.
56, Male, European-American/White
Date of Injury Resulting in Death: 11/16/2016
Location: 2779 Reservoir Ln, Redding, CA 96002
Cause of Death: Gunshot
Agency: Redding Police Department
Summary Description: Officers were called to an apartment complex, after Redding police received reports of a disturbance involving a man armed with a rifle and handgun. Leighty, allegedly armed with a pistol and rifle, refused to leave the apartment, which wasn’t his home. About 15 minutes later, four officers shot the man after he allegedly refused to follow officers’ commands to drop his gun.

Name withheld by police
Male, Race unspecified
Date of Injury Resulting in Death: 11/26/2016
Location: 1800 block Gold Hills Drive, Redding, CA 96003
Cause of Death: Gunshot
Agency: Redding Police Department
Summary Description: Redding Police officers tried to pull over a car after reports of a suspicious person driving in the neighborhood. The driver parked in a residential driveway. As police approached the driver, multiple shots were fired from inside the car. The driver then got out of the car, laid down on the ground and shot and killed himself.

Christopher Delano Rosa
23, Male, European-American/White
Date of Injury Resulting in Death: 3/19/2017
Location: 400 block Country Oak Drive, Redding, CA 96003
Cause of Death: Gunshot
Agency: California Highway Patrol
Summary Description: An off-duty California Highway Patrol officer shot and killed an unarmed intruder, police said. The Shasta County District Attorney determined the shooting was justifiable self defense.

Edward Paul Parinella
53, Male, European-American/White
Date of Injury Resulting in Death: 3/26/2017
Location: 2861 McMurray Dr, Anderson, CA 96007
Cause of Death: Gunshot
Agency: Anderson Police Department
Summary Description: According to police, an officer was investigating a stolen vehicle at the Motel 6 on McMurray Drive when he exchanged gunfire with an alleged suspect, Edward Paul Parinella, who was staying at the motel. Officers Tyler Finch, David Starkey and Tyler Spurgeon also fired their guns, but all four Anderson Police officers were absolved of responsibility in the killing by an RPD investigation.

Vernchoy Saechao

Vernchoy Saechao
22, Male, Asian/Pacific Islander
Date of Injury Resulting in Death: 12/8/2017
Location: 2604 Wilson Ave, Redding, CA 96002
Cause of Death: Gunshot
Agency: Redding Police Department
Summary Description: Police said they encountered Vernchoy Saechao while investigating a domestic disturbance call reported just after 2 a.m. Saechao, police said, fired a handgun at an officer before the officer shot and killed him. The Shasta County District Attorney determined the shooting was justified.

Eric Jay Hames

Eric Jay Hames
34, Male, European-American/White
Date of Injury Resulting in Death: 8/27/2018
Location: 916 E Cypress Ave, Redding, CA 96002
Cause of Death: Gunshot
Agency: Redding Police Department
Summary Description: Around 7:50 a.m., Eric Hames, a local transient, had been blocking traffic, shouting obscenities at passers-by and threatening motorists near an intersection. Four officers confronted and then shot and killed Hames when he allegedly threatened them with a knife.

Benjamin David Larson

Benjamin David Larson
42, Male, European-American/White
Date of Injury Resulting in Death: 12/6/2018
Location: I-5 & Knighton Road, Pacheco, CA 96002
Cause of Death: Gunshot
Agency: Redding Police Department
Summary Description: Benjamin David Larson was shot and killed when he allegedly fired at officers after leading them on a vehicle chase on Interstate 5. The shooting was the culmination of a chase that began in Redding shortly before 5:30 a.m. when a Redding police officer saw a Honda Civic that may have been stolen. Larson was scheduled to go on trial the week after he died for his alleged role in the widely publicized theft of a van containing valuable show dogs in June.

Phayvanh Inthavong
32, Male, Asian/Pacific Islander
Date of Injury Resulting in Death: 2/11/2019
Location: Arizona St and Churn Creek Rd, Redding, CA 96002
Cause of Death: Gunshot
Agency: Redding Police Department
Summary Description: Police received a 9-1-1 call about a man who was possibly armed with a handgun and acting erratically. When police arrived, Inthavong saw them and began running through the neighborhood. Police said he ran through several yards and then broke into an occupied home. The police spotted Inthavong through the home’s window, pacing and holding a small caliber handgun. Police called on Inthavong to surrender, but he then came out of the home and pointed the handgun in their direction. The officers opened fire and he was killed.

Brandon Starr Robinson
34, Male, Race unspecified
Date of Injury Resulting in Death: 3/10/2019
Location: 2900 block E Rockabye Lane, Redding, CA 96002
Cause of Death: Gunshot
Agency: California Highway Patrol
Summary Description: Following a DUI stop and chase in which Robinson allegedly fired shots at pursuing CHP officers, officers from multiple departments cornered the suspect in a backyard. Robinson allegedly pointed a gun at police and was shot and killed.

Donnell James Lang

48, Male, race unspecified
Date of injury resulting in death: 4/2/2019
Location: 2100 Hemingway Street
Cause of death: Gunshot
Agency: Redding Police Department
Summary description: At 3:38 p.m., two Redding Police Department officers responded to the vicinity of Hemingway Street and Shasta View Drive after a resident reported Lang was walking in the street, acting strangely and carrying a handgun. After they located Lang, RPD Cpl. Rob Peterson commanded Lang to lie down on the ground. Lang complied, but while Peterson was attempting to cuff the suspect, Lang attempted to escape the hold. Peterson’s partner shot Lang several times with his service rifle. Lang was pronounced dead at the scene. Although