LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – The District Attorney’s Office has identified the man shot to death by a California Highway Patrol officer during a fight near Lower Lake on Wednesday.
District Attorney Don Anderson, whose office is leading the investigation into the incident, said 52-year-old Ronald Walter Ossenberg of Southern California died after being shot once by the CHP officer during the confrontation along Highway 29.
Anderson did not release the female officer’s name, which he said he is prohibited from doing under the Peace Officers Bill of Rights.
Lake County News offered Ossenberg’s family the chance to comment for this story, but they declined.
Anderson said Ossenberg had a lengthy history of criminal offenses, including crimes of violence against police officers, domestic violence and drug offenses, and was a registered sex offender. By Friday, Ossenberg’s information no longer appeared on the California Megan’s Law Web site.
In addition, Anderson told Lake County News that Ossenberg had felony warrants for his arrest at the time of the confrontation.
Ossenberg is alleged to have stolen a 2010 Toyota Camry from a Fullerton car lot on or about Oct. 15, Anderson said. At the time, Ossenberg was homeless and had recently been released from the Orange County Jail.
Anderson said it’s believed that Ossenberg drove the stolen vehicle up Highway 1, stopping in San Luis Obispo County where is fled from State Park Police.
He later was known to be in San Francisco, where he stole a woman’s backpack on the Golden Gate Bridge, Anderson said.
Ossenberg then came to Lake County, where he had previously vacationed with his parents, according to Anderson.
At 2 p.m. Wednesday a CHP officer stopped to check on a vehicle located on the northbound shoulder of Highway 29, just south of C Street and south of Lower Lake, Anderson said.
The CHP officer discovered Ossenberg sitting inside the vehicle. Anderson said the officer had Ossenberg exit the vehicle for an investigation into driving under the influence of alcohol.
When the officer was running a computer check on Ossenberg, he attacked her, choking her and throwing her to the ground, Anderson said.
Anderson said Ossenberg then jumped on the officer and attempted to remove her gun from its holster.
While Ossenberg and the officer struggled for the gun, Anderson said a Good Samaritan stopped to assist the officer. That individual ran toward the officer, which distracted Ossenberg.
With Ossenberg distracted, the officer was able to gain control of the firearm and discharge one round into Ossenberg, Anderson said.
Ossenberg got into the Camry and drove northbound across Highway 29, crashing through a fence into a vineyard. Anderson said the CHP officer rendered aid to Ossenberg until medical units arrived.
Anderson said Ossenberg succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Hidden Valley Lake resident Susanne La Faver told Lake County News that she was driving from her south county home to Sacramento on Wednesday when she passed the officer and Ossenberg on the side of the road.
“The female officer was in a wide stance, prepared. The man's car was parked way off the road. I thought it strange. They were facing each other,” she said.
Ossenberg at that point was out of the Camry which he had allegedly stolen – and which he’d parked along the side of Highway 29 – and facing off with the officer, according to La Faver.
The officer and Ossenberg were standing parallel to the car, with La Faver recalling the officer standing to the north and Ossenberg to the south.
The car was quite a ways off the highway. “That’s what I thought was unusual. It wasn’t as if he ran off the road. It was parked,” said La Faver.
La Faver said the officer’s vehicle was on the edge of the road with lights flashing.
She said the officer looked “professional and solid,” noting “she was clearly in charge.”
La Faver added, “The suspect just stood there looking at her.”
As she reached the intersection of Highway 53 and Highway 29, “every siren in Lake County went off. I prayed for the safety of the officer and the man facing her. And also, the first responders,” La Faver said.
Pursuant to the Lake County Law Enforcement Fatal Incident Protocol, the Lake County District Attorney Investigation Division is conducting the investigation into the incident along with the CHP Critical Incident Investigation Team, Anderson said.
Anderson said several officers and investigators from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and the Clearlake Police Department assisted with the investigation.
Anderson said his Friday update was not the final report on the shooting, which he said will be under investigation for several months to come.
The last fatal shooting involving a local CHP officer in Lake County occurred in October 2006, when a CHP officer shot a suspect who had led officers on a high speed chase from Colusa County to Clearlake Oaks. The suspect was fatally shot after he attempted to run over a CHP sergeant.
Email Elizabeth Larson at email@example.com . Follow her on Twitter, @ERLarson, or Lake County News, @LakeCoNews.