NORTH COAST, Calif. – A Mendocino County Sheriff's deputy was fatally shot Wednesday morning after confronting an armed robbery and carjacking suspect who law enforcement said later committed suicide.
Deputy Ricky Del Fiorentino, 48, a 26-year law enforcement veteran, was killed shortly before noon near Fort Bragg, according to Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman, who held a news conference on the shooting early Wednesday evening.
The man who shot Del Fiorentino, 32-year-old Ricardo Antonio Chaney, was later found dead near the scene of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, Allman said.
Allman said that Chaney was the suspect in an early morning armed robbery involving a shotgun, carjacking and kidnapping in Eugene, Ore.
Chaney stole a black 2006 BMW 330, forced the owners into the trunk and headed south. Allman said he did not have information about the people who had been forced into the trunk, but that they were not in the vehicle at the time of the shooting in Fort Bragg.
A “be on the lookout” about the armed robbery, kidnapping and carjacking was issued to Mendocino County, but Allman's staff didn't have it for their Wednesday morning briefing.
Just after 10:30 a.m. a business owner at Confusion Hill, nine miles south of the Humboldt County line, found Chaney urinating outside of his business, confronted him and told him it was inappropriate, and escorted Chaney off the property, according to Allman.
The business owner told law enforcement that Chaney, wearing a hoodie, returned a short time later with a double-barreled shotgun. The man armed himself with a baseball bat and locked himself inside the business, with Chaney shooting at him through the door. As Chaney sped from the scene, the business owner shot at him with a handgun, Allman said.
Allman said that Mendocino County Sheriff's Dispatch received a 911 call about the incident at 10:34 a.m., just after it occurred.
Chaney fled southbound on Highway 1, with Mendocino County Sheriff's Lt. Greg Stefani spotting the BMW at 11:38 a.m., Allman said.
Mendocino County Sheriff's deputies pursued Chaney, with Allman reporting that the pursuit reached speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour, with Chaney passing on double-yellow lines and blind corners.
About three miles out of Fort Bragg the deputies lost sight of the stolen BMW, and Allman said deputies made contact with Fort Bragg Police to let them know the suspect was headed their way but hadn't yet entered the city.
Allman said the deputies then began searching dirt roads in the area.
Del Fiorentino turned down Park Drive – located three and a half miles north of Fort Bragg, on the west side of Highway 1 – at around 11:50 a.m. and came face to face with Chaney and the stolen BMW, Allman said.
Allman said Chaney – who had two AK-47-type assault rifles, in addition to the double-barreled shotgun he had used at Confusion Hill – riddled Del Fiorentino's patrol car with bullets, blowing out both the windshield and rear window.
Arriving Fort Bragg Police officers found Del Fiorentino dead in the front seat of his vehicle, with Chaney going through the car. Allman said Chaney had taken Del Fiorentino's sidearm from its holster.
What followed, said Allman, was a firefight between Chaney and Fort Bragg Police Lt. John Naulty, who also was armed with an assault rifle.
Allman said Chaney shot six to seven rounds at Naulty, with Naulty returning fire with less than five rounds.
Naulty was able to retreat to safety, with Chaney going into nearby brush, Allman said.
Law enforcement from around Mendocino County – including California Highway Patrol, State Parks and Cal Fire – joined sheriff's and Fort Bragg Police personnel at the scene, creating a sealed perimeter. Allman said that the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office also sent personnel as well as its helicopter to assist with the search for Chaney.
Chaney would later be found in the area, with a gunshot wound in the leg, which it's believed he received during the firefight with Naulty. Allman said Chaney appeared to have committed suicide.
Allman said there was no indication of a second suspect in the shooting, although a second person had been detained at the scene earlier Wednesday.
He said the investigation is continuing, and the CHP and the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office are in charge of processing the scene of the shooting. Investigators from Eugene, Oreg., also are traveling to Mendocino County.
“There's many details that we don't know,” Allman said.
All of the firearms were recovered, including Del Fiorentino's sidearm, which was found near the BMW, Allman said.
Allman said early Wednesday evening that Highway 1 was in the process of being reopened.
Del Fiorentino was “a very, very brave man,” who Allman said he had known for years. They had worked cases together in their early days in the department, and he had last spoken to Del Fiorentino two weeks ago.
Allman said Del Fiorentino worked as a sheriff's deputy from 1988 to 1990, went to work for the Fort Bragg Police Department from 1990 to 2000, and then returned to the sheriff's office in 2000, working there these past 14 years.
A wrestling coach, father and husband, Del Fiorentino lived in Fort Bragg and was assigned to the north coast area, Allman said.
Gov. Jerry Brown, Congressman Jared Huffman, California Attorney General Kamala Harris and CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow had all called Allman on Wednesday in the wake of the shooting, he said.
Allman asked the community for prayers and sympathy for Del Fiorentino's family.
Email Elizabeth Larson at [email protected] . Follow her on Twitter, @ERLarson, or Lake County News, @LakeCoNews.