Suspect in death of California officer has a troubled past
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A man with a history of domestic violence restraining orders gunned down a rookie California police officer and continued firing, preventing other officers from reaching their wounded colleague for 45 minutes, authorities said Thursday.
An armored vehicle eventually was used to reach Officer Tara O’Sullivan and take her to a hospital, where she later died.
O’Sullivan, 26, and other officers were helping a woman gather her belongings from a Sacramento home as part of a domestic violence call when the shooting occurred Wednesday evening.
A day later, police had not revealed key details about what happened, including whether the man was already on the property when officers arrived, where on the property the shooting occurred, or why it took so long for O’Sullivan to be pulled to safety.
Police Chief Daniel Hahn said he had few details on how the shooting unfolded but noted that the gunman fired for hours. Hahn defended the delay in getting O’Sullivan to the hospital.
“One of the reasons it took so long is the suspect was continuing to fire at officers,” he said. “So I know the character of the officers that serve this community and I know that they would have done anything to get to her.”
Police identified the suspect as 45-year-old Adel Sambrano Ramos of Sacramento and said his standoff with police lasted eight hours, with five officers firing their weapons.
Ramos was in custody and scheduled to appear in court Monday.
A relative of Ramos said the woman being helped by O’Sullivan was the suspect’s girlfriend. She was not injured.
“We are devastated,” Deputy Chief Dave Peletta said about the death of O’Sullivan. “There are no words to convey the depth of sadness we feel or how heartbroken we are for the family of our young, brave officer.”
O’Sullivan is the first Sacramento police officer to be killed on the job in two decades.
She and several other officers arrived at the home at 5:41 p.m. on Wednesday and within a half-hour O’Sullivan was hit with gunfire, police said. The gunman kept firing, and at 6:54 p.m. additional officers responded to retrieve O’Sullivan. She was transported within five minutes to UC Davis Medical Center, where she died.
She graduated from the police academy in December and was working with a training officer. She was expected to be on her own in a couple of weeks, Peletta said.
A moment of silence for O’Sullivan opened Thursday night’s graduation ceremonies for the department’s next group of 56 young recruits.
“We suffered a devastating loss yesterday,” master of ceremonies Lt. Steve Oliveira began. “Yesterday’s tragic events remind us of the potential dangers of this profession as well as the tremendous commitment and sacrifice law enforcement officers make every day.”
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said he initially wondered if the ceremony should be postponed but “I immediately concluded ‘no way.’”
He decided the graduation “could not be more timely. ... You are uplifting our spirits and our hopes when we all need it most.”
City manager Howard Chan said the officer died “selflessly coming to the aid of others.”
The police chief remembered her as “an amazing and incredible person who paid the ultimate sacrifice.”
“She chose to stand in the gap between evil, between what tries to tear apart the fabric of what we call community,” he said.
A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, O’Sullivan was a member of the first class of a law enforcement training program at California State University, Sacramento. She completed the training program and graduated with a degree in child development.
“She had a big heart, a strong mind, a great personality. She made you smile — she is exactly what we need in the police force,” said Robert Nelson, the university president. The school plans to launch a scholarship in O’Sullivan’s honor.
Melissa Repa, director of the career center, recalled watching O’Sullivan go through an obstacle and ropes course in the rain during her first day in the university training program. She didn’t let her small stature stop her.
“Nothing would get in her way of climbing and surmounting her goals,” she said through tears.
Orlando Ramos, the younger brother of the suspect, told The Associated Press that Adel Ramos is estranged from his family.
He sent his condolences to the officer’s family.
“If he goes to prison for the rest of his life, I could care less,” Orlando Ramos said. “I’m a lot more heartbroken for seeing the pain in my mother and for the police officer and her family than I am for him going to prison.”
Court filings show a warrant was issued for Ramos just nine days before the shooting when he failed to appear in court on a November misdemeanor battery charge involving a female minor.
A judge twice granted domestic violence restraining orders against Ramos issued at his wife’s request in 2004 and 2007, court records show. In both cases, he was required to give up his guns. The restraining orders later expired.
Muhammed Ilyas, who lives near the scene of the shooting, said Ramos had a history of harassing a black family that lived next door and even threatened the three children with kitchen knives as they played outside.
He frequently shouted racial slurs at the family, said Ilyas, who identified Ramos as the man living there when shown a photo.
Law enforcement experts offered differing opinions on the standoff’s timeline and potential tactical actions.
Thor Eells, executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association and a retired SWAT commander from Colorado Springs, Colorado, said lack of cover or protection, the topography of the area and the location of the fallen officer and shooter could explain why it took 45 minutes to get to O’Sullivan, Eells said.
Charles “Sid” Heal, former commanding officer of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s SWAT unit, said putting additional officers in harms’ way without the proper protection is not an option.
Meanwhile, Stephen Nasta— a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a former inspector with the New York Police Department_called the delay “unacceptable” and said officers should have commandeered an armored bank vehicle, bus or heavy construction equipment if an armored police vehicle was not available or used diversionary tactics to distract the gunman as other officers rescued the wounded comrade.
Rodriguez reported from San Francisco. Associated Press writer Stefanie Dazio in Los Angeles contributed to this story.