by Dave Waddell
A Butte County sheriff’s sniper was nearly 130 yards away from a drunken, pistol-waving Mark Jensen when the officer shot him dead with a rifle Aug. 17 in the roadway in front of his Durham residence.
The distance between the two men was about the same as from the back of one end zone to the back of the other end zone on a football field.
Jensen never fired his .45 caliber Glock semi-automatic, but the sniper, deputy Matt Calkins, peering through his rifle’s scope, believed Jensen was pointing the handgun at him and fired in self-defense, Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey ruled this week. Calkins was in a prone position behind a tree in an orchard wearing camouflage clothing, including a dirt-colored helmet, when he pulled the trigger on his .308 caliber rifle.
A forensic autopsy conducted by the Sacramento County coroner’s office determined that a “high-powered projectile” from Calkins’ rifle “shattered inside (Jensen’s) chest into several pieces of shrapnel shredding the lungs, heart and liver,” Ramsey wrote in his 12-page report on the killing.
Asked whether it would have been difficult for Jensen, whose blood alcohol level was .22, to have even seen the hiding Calkins from so far away, Ramsey replied, “Yes, but not impossible.”
The district attorney said that if Jensen had fired his weapon, a bullet could have ricocheted along the ground and hit Calkins or sheriff’s Sgt. Jack Storne, a second prone sniper positioned near Calkins. At the time the shot was fired, Storne had lost sight of Jensen momentarily as he moved onto the roadway waving his black Glock.
Ramsey’s report and his PowerPoint presentation on the third fatal law-enforcement shooting this year in Butte County can be viewed here.
Chico police shot Desmond Phillips, 25, on March 17 and Tyler Rushing, 34, on July 23.
Jensen, 56, who twice ran unsuccessfully for the county Board of Supervisors, became incensed following a complaint that he was growing marijuana illegally on his property in the 1900 block of the Durham-Dayton Highway. After county code enforcement officers posted a notice of violation, Jensen tore out the marijuana plants but began calling several county departments and repeatedly and profanely berating employees before hanging up, Ramsey said. During a span of about 35 minutes during the afternoon of Aug. 17, Jensen made a series of 10 “short vulgar, nasty, threatening calls” to multiple county government offices.
Later, Jensen also aimed a “long gun” and yelled at a female driver who happened to pull over to answer a text message in front of his residence, where a so-called “State of Jefferson” flag was flown.
“(Jensen’s wife) noted her husband had a decidedly anti-government point of view and recently had been in a ‘dark, downward spiral’ with his level of paranoia and anger increasing,” Ramsey wrote in his report. “She noted his general opinion was the government was composed of ‘all a**holes and is screwing us all.’ She said Jensen screamed at the television every morning about what a group of ‘idiots’ the media was and he was generally upset the rest of the day.”
Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea could not immediately be reached for comment.
Dave Waddell is news director at ChicoSol.