The following is a press release issued by the Willits Police Department. The information has not been proven in a court of law and any individuals described should be presumed innocent until proven guilty:
On 08/20/22 at about 1:43am, Willits Police Department (WPD) Officers were dispatched to the 500 Block of South Main Street for a reported assault where the victim was struck in the head with a baseball bat. The victim was reported to be actively bleeding from wounds caused by the assault.
A passing Sergeant with the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO), arrived at the scene with the responding WPD Officers and contacted the victim and five witnesses. The victim and witnesses immediately identified the suspect as Damian Villegas, a relative of the victim and many of the witnesses. The victim and witnesses related that Villegas had been consuming alcohol at a local bar before being kicked out for starting fights. The victim and witnesses were at the bar at the same time as Villegas, and all parties ended up going to another local bar on Main Street. While at the second bar, Villegas attempted to fight the victim and witnesses in the parking lot. The victim and witnesses tried to leave on foot to go home, but Villegas pulled up to them in his vehicle, took a baseball bat from the trunk of his car, and assaulted the victim before fleeing the scene.
WPD, knowing Villegas due to past interactions, proceeded to his last listed address. The MCSO Sergeant and another WPD unit attempted to locate Villegas at his home while the victim and witnesses were interviewed on scene. During the interviews, the victims and witnesses pointed out a passing vehicle traveling northbound on South Main Street as the suspect’s vehicle.
WPD and MCSO units ultimately located the vehicle, unoccupied, parked on East Valley Street. Almost immediately, WPD received a call of a suspicious person angrily striking a sign post with a baseball bat in the same general area.
While Officers and the MCSO Sergeant searched the area for Villegas, they contacted a woman later identified as Mercedez Abel, who was gaining access into refused to assist the officers. It was later determined Abel is in a dating relationship with Villegas.
WPD Officers continued searching the area for Villegas who was ultimately contacted, and arrested without incident, as he exited Abel’s residence a short time later. Villegas denied any knowledge or connection to any altercation(s). Villegas also denied knowing Abel before later admitting they were dating and requested WPD Officers speak to Abel so she could claim he was not involved in any altercations.
Villegas was arrested and booked into the county jail for violation of 245(a)(1) PC (Assault with a Deadly Weapon). The charges of 31 PC (Aiding and Abetting) and 32 PC (Accessory After the Fact) against Abel were be forwarded to the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office for review and filing. The victim was self-transported to the local hospital where he received necessary medical care for serious injuries.
The Willits Police Department would like to thank the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office and the community members who provided information, with their assistance in this case.