There have been two officer-involved shootings in a span of two weeks under the jurisdiction of the Kern County Sheriff’s Office. 23ABC’s Kristin Vartan has an update on the investigations.
The Kern County Sheriff's Department held a press conference Friday morning concerning two recent shootings involving sheriff deputies. Sheriff Youngblood said the county has seen more of this type of incident since the pandemic began.
The first occurred on September 3rd just before 7 a.m. when according to the sheriff's department Deputy Chris Saldana received a call from dispatchers about a man with a rifle in the small mining city of Randsburg on Highway 14. When the deputy arrived at the location, he found two vehicles alongside the road. After pulling up information on the cars, Deputy Saldana found that one vehicle was stolen but had no one inside.
Inside the second vehicle, the deputy encountered 37-year old Fernando Napoles, who challenged Saldana to a fight.
"We are in a time when people feel that they are not - well they are not held accountable for a lot of their actions. When you don't hold people accountable, they tend to push that envelope further and further," said Youngblood.
The sheriff said Deputy Saldana moved away from Napoles. The suspect then went back to the vehicle, pulled out a shotgun, and pointed it at the deputy. That's when sheriff officials say Deputy Saldana fired his gun but Napoles did not stand down. Deputy Saldana then fired again.
Napoles was declared dead at the scene.
Lieutenant Joel Swanson of the Kern County Sheriff's Office told 23ABC that Deputy Saldana had never been involved in a shooting before.
The second case discussed in the press conference was the investigation surrounding 31-year-old Ricardo Usher who was shot by Deputy Ubaldo Weiss on September 15th.
Youngblood said Deputy Weiss tried to wait for back-up before approaching two suspects in a stolen vehicle that he was investigating on Moneta Ave. Bodycam footage shown at the press conference shows Usher charging at Deputy Weiss while muttering incoherently. Deputy Weiss orders Usher to stop, but he keeps going.
"He [Usher] is charged with a PCC69, or interfering with the peace officer in the performance of their duties," said Youngblood.
KCSO doesn't believe the stolen vehicle and the suspect are related.
The incident is not Deputy Weiss' first officer-involved shooting. He was involved in another shooting a couple of years ago.
"When you come running at an officer at 1:30 in the morning in that type of situation whether you have a mental health issue or whether you're under the influence of drugs, and or alcohol, it makes me no difference," explained Youngblood. "What I do know is that you're going to attempt to hurt me."
Whether Usher was under the influence has yet to be concluded from the toxicology report. He is currently recovering in the hospital.
"When you pull a trigger, in this business/profession, a lot of things are going to happen. None of them are good," continued Youngblood. "We all know that. You're going to be subject to a lawsuit, subject to scrutiny by the sheriff, by the media, the public. It's just a part of what we do. We accept that. We hold them accountable when they do something wrong. In this particular case, we haven't gotten to that point yet. But right now, I can't see that I would've done anything different."
Lt. Swanson told 23ABC both investigations are pending review by the critical incident review board. KCSO is finishing up information before making a presentation.