Friday, December 9, 2022

Video Shows New Willits Police Sergeant Pursuing Suspects and Shooting Through Windshield of Cruiser While Working for Humboldt County

The critical incident video published by the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office

In August 2022, Willits Police Department Chief Fabian Lizzaraga announced to the City Council he had sworn-in Jordan Walstrom as the department’s new Sergeant, in an end to a job search begun earlier that spring. 

As of July 20, 2022, Sergeant Walstrom was employed with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office. On that day, Walstrom and another deputy pursued an evading vehicle and its passenger opened fire on the deputies. 

Body camera from the incident shows Walstrom driving, arming himself with his service rifle, and in an unconventional use of force, firing four shots through his police cruiser’s windshield at the suspects.

Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Samantha Karges told us firing through a windshield “is not a technique that we train our deputies on and is not recommended. However, an Administrative Review found that the action was not outside policy.” 

Humboldt County Sheriff’s vehicle with a bullet hole in the windshield after the July 20, 2022 pursuit. [Photo by Mark McKenna]

According to The Blue Line, a magazine for Canadian Law Enforcement, some police agencies are teaching their officers “the important skill of being able to draw their sidearms while still seated in the police vehicle, and quickly returning fire through the windshield.” Some agencies consider this a “necessary skill to have should the need arise… for an officer to save their life by shooting through the windshield. However, there remains many contrary opinions—even controversy within law enforcement—as to whether this can be done accurately due to concerns over changes to bullet trajectory as it passes through the windshield (either being fired from the inside or fired from the outside into the vehicle).”

Chief Lizarraga told us Walstrom’s hiring process had actually begun before the July officer-involved shooting and when it occurred Walstrom contacted WPD and “promptly told us about the incident.”

It was not until Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office determined Walstrom’s actions were within department policy that Willits Police went ahead and hired Walstrom, Chief Lizarraga said. 

Officers put one of the suspects into a vehicle. [Photo by Mark McKenna]

On July 20, 2022, then-Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Jason Walstrom was on patrol with training Deputy Zackariah Dickson outside of Eureka. The pair observed a vehicle being driven recklessly by 27-year-old Eureka man Darrike Miles McKeown. Deputies attempted to stop the vehicle, but the driver did not comply and a pursuit began.

31-year-old Eureka man Jared Eli Aubrey fired a rifle at the deputies from the passenger seat. Investigators would later find a bullet from Aubrey’s weapon struck a nearby home. The pursuit continued into the Eureka city limits when Aubrey leaned out the passenger window of the moving vehicle and pointed the rifle at the pursuing deputies. Deputy Walstrom proceeded to use his department-issued rifle to fire at Aubrey through the windshield of the patrol car. No more shots would be fired and the pursuit would end after a traffic collision.

Sergeant Walstrom brings close to six years of prior law enforcement experience to the Willits Police Department. He served previously as a field training officer, something that Chief Lizarraga said was important because he was seeking a candidate with “more experience to guide our people.” Walstrom is “easygoing and has gotten along well with his new colleagues and community.”

Day in and day out, law enforcement officers face the potential of having to draw their firearms and defend themselves. Chief Lizarraga recognized the public scrutiny of police shootings saying, “There are some bad shootings, but the vast majority are in policy, justified, in defense of life, or addressing an imminent threat to the public,” Chief Lizarraga commented. 

If HCSO’s review of Walstrom’s actions had found he acted outside department policy, Chief Lizarraga said the incident would have informed his candidacy. Even in an era of police shortages, Chief Lizarraga said his department is looking for officers committed to community-oriented policing to serve Willits residents.


Previous Coverage from Our Humboldt County sister site Redheaded Blackbelt

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6 COMMENTS

  1. He thought he was playing GTA lol.. nah but on another note.. are we surprised?! It’s Mendocino county, they hire anyone including criminals like that cop that got away with rape

  2. He stuck his neck out and put his huevos on the line to make things safer for the public instead of running away like a scared rabbit. Thanks Officer Walstrom .

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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFeverhttps://mendofever.com/
I like to think of myself as a journalist for the everyman. Journalism has become a craft practiced largely by the urban elite. It’s time to take it back. I have been an Emerald Triangle resident since 2006 and this is year ten in Mendocino County. Please, email me at matthewplafever@gmail.com if you know a story that needs to be told.

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