by Dave Waddell
At a time when California has made certain law enforcement officers’ records more available for public inspection, Butte County officials have been slow to even identify the sheriff’s deputies involved in two recent shootings.
In fact, the names of the officers who shot wanted parolee GD Hendrix of Berry Creek on Nov. 15 are still not known to the public – several months after District Attorney Mike Ramsey quickly issued “preliminary findings” justifying the killing.
Conversely, after receiving a written request from ChicoSol, Butte County this week did release the names of the nine Sheriff’s Department deputies who fired their guns in a later killing – that of armed suspect Richard Moulton on Jan. 28.
Deputies shooting at Moulton included Brad Meyer, Josh Brazzi, Jake Smith, Tyler Dentinger, Tristan Harper, Mariah Smith, Ben Cornelius, Paul Brodie and Angela Tavelli.
The nine deputies were named “in the interests of transparency,” said Brad Stephens, assistant county counsel, in a letter to ChicoSol after a public records request was submitted to Sheriff Kory Honea.
As is practice for officer-involved shootings in Butte County, the Moulton case is under investigation by a team headed up by Ramsey.
Still unidentified are the seven law enforcement officers who fired their weapons in the killing of the 48-year-old Hendrix and his dog – even though Ramsey took the unusual step, for him, of issuing a “preliminary” report, just five days after the shooting. Officers who fired their guns in the Hendrix incident included three Butte County deputies, three Shasta County deputies, and a game warden from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Hendrix allegedly was holding only a 6-inch steel pipe in his hand at the time he was killed, and Ramsey’s report says investigators concluded “Hendrix’s actions were consistent with him committing suicide at the hands of police.”
Conspicuous by its absence in Ramsey’s “preliminary” report was any mention of the number of times Hendrix was shot or the location of his wounds. The DA’s report says “a total of 26 fired cartridge casings of various calibers were recovered at the scene.”
According to Ramsey’s report, Hendrix had spent time in prison for a 2015 weapons and drug violation. According to news accounts, however, criminal proceedings against Hendrix were suspended that year when it was determined he wasn’t competent to stand trial, and he was transferred to Napa State Hospital for psychiatric treatment.
He was on parole and had cut off an ankle bracelet that monitored his movements, according to Ramsey. Prior to his shooting, he had led officers on a high-speed chase before his vehicle was disabled. No gun was found on Hendrix or in his vehicle.
In the fatal shooting of unarmed, mentally distraught Myra Micalizio in April 2018, the two Butte deputies involved did not turn on their body-worn cameras until after the incident.
Ramsey’s report on the Hendrix shooting makes reference to a “forensic frame-by-frame analysis” of a dashboard camera video from a responding Sutter County deputy’s vehicle. Ramsey made public a portion of that dash-cam video; however, his report makes no mention of any body-camera footage having been examined.
The DA did not immediately respond to questions from ChicoSol about whether body cameras were turned on in the Hendrix incident and whether any footage would be made public.
Neither Ramsey not Sheriff Honea responded to a ChicoSol request for the names of officers involved in the Hendrix case or to questions about why shooting deputies’ names have recently been withheld.
Law enforcement officers involved in past shootings in Butte County have typically been identified within a couple of days.
Dave Waddell is a freelance contributor to ChicoSol.