by Dave Waddell
posted May 11
Seven years before killing Eddie Gabriel “Gabe” Sanchez, Chico cop Mark Bass was accused by his wife, Barbara Reed-Bass, of assaulting her physically and verbally during a turbulent separation prior to their divorce.
In a Butte County Superior Court declaration, Reed-Bass also reported allegations that Bass had shot his gun while drunk and in distress late on New Year’s Eve 2008, leading to an involuntary mental health hold.
The domestic violence claims made by Reed-Bass, detailed in Superior Court files, concerned several incidents in 2008. Sanchez, an armed robbery suspect, was shot to death by Bass while fleeing on Nov. 10, 2015. Bass was a Chico PD detective at the time and later promoted to sergeant.
The abuse allegations against Bass surfaced after Gabe Sanchez’s father, Eddie Sanchez of Paradise, hired a private investigator while suing the City of Chico. Eddie Sanchez said a domestic violence restraining order would likely have been sought against Bass had he not been a police officer. Such an order would probably have cost Bass his job, Sanchez said, and “my boy would still be alive.”
On April 21, 2008, Reed-Bass declared, Bass showed up at her residence “unexpected and uninvited” and became “enraged” while demanding to know who she had been talking to on the phone. Bass, his estranged wife claimed, “grabbed me and threw me against the (dining) room wall and I fell to the ground. He then came over and began pulling my hair and thrusting my head into the laminate floor several times. I was able to get up. (Bass) was still very angry and pushed me down again. He kneeled down and pushed my head into the floor and began pulling my hair. Our six-year-old son walked in and saw what was happening and started screaming ‘mommy, mommy.’ … (Bass) called the next night and told me to be careful who I told about the incident because ‘the children’s well-being depends on his livelihood.’”
Seven days after that incident, Reed-Bass’s divorce attorney, Randy Bakke, wrote a letter to a lawyer representing Bass seeking a “verbal acknowledgement that you have spoken with Mr. Bass and that you are confident that Mrs. Bass has nothing to be fearful of as we proceed in this matter.”
Wrote attorney Bakke: “Mr. Bass physically assaulted Mrs. Bass in the family residence. The minor children witnessed a portion of this attack. This type of behavior could very easily cost Mr. Bass his job and his career in law enforcement. I have advised Mrs. Bass to seek a Domestic Violence Restraining Order. She has declined to do so because she understands the detrimental effect such an order would have on Mr. Bass’ career. However, she will not tolerate any further abuse.”
Bakke also wrote that he had “no doubt that Mr. Bass will deny the incident or attempt to trivialize it.”
On May 12, about two weeks after Bakke sent the letter to Bass’ attorney, Reed-Bass claimed she “awoke at 5:50 a.m. to find (Bass) in my home, standing over my bed. He left when I asked him, … but he came back unannounced and uninvited at 9 p.m. … He cornered me in my bedroom and locked the door behind him. He began calling me foul names and he grabbed me. I looked toward the locked bedroom door and I could see the fingers of our youngest son … coming under the door. He was trying to get to me. I told (Bass) I need to get out of the room. He threw me into the dresser. … I left the room and went to the living room and sat on the couch with the boys. (Bass) … began yelling at me … The children were terrified.”
On August 5, Reed-Bass claimed, Bass called her at work and cussed her out. Later that day, during a conversation behind the bleachers at their son’s football practice, (Bass’) “anger got the best of him and he began insulting me. I turned to leave and (Bass) grabbed me and ripped me around. He was yelling at me and calling me every filthy name he could think of including the ‘C word,’ ‘slut’ and ‘whore’ and others.”
Reed-Bass acknowledged to the court that on “each of those occasions, I chose to ‘protect’ (Bass) and chose not to seek a restraining order against him because (Bass) told me he would lose his job as a police officer if a domestic violence restraining order was issued against him.” Reed-Bass wrote that she was “soundly criticized” by the court mediator at trial “for not taking action after I was physically abused.”
The abusive incidents in 2008 aside, Reed-Bass described Bass as “an excellent father” to their two sons. Bass declared under oath in court filings that he never abused Reed-Bass but that she had struck him in the head three times during their marriage.
Seth Stoughton, a nationally recognized authority on police practices, said officers are not automatically fired because of a domestic violence restraining order.
“An injunction (or restraint order) wouldn’t necessarily prevent the officer from working, but it *can,*” Stoughton wrote in an email reply to questions. “Some domestic violence injunctions will prohibit the possession of firearms, which obviously prevents an officer from working while armed. An agency might try to put the officer in a position where they can work without being armed, but agencies could also suspend or terminate the officer. Note that is an administrative decision, not a legal requirement.”
In early 2009, Reed-Bass again wrote to Superior Court after learning of “a very serious and disturbing incident. … I am informed and believe and thereon allege that on New Year’s Eve … (Bass) and his girlfriend got into a heated argument. (Bass) was drunk and sometime during the course of their argument his gun discharged. I am further informed and believe that during this incident, (Bass) was threatening suicide (and his) girlfriend called the Chico Police Department and (Bass) was ‘51/50’d.’ I am further informed … that (Bass) has been placed on administrative leave.”
(“51-50” has become shorthand for a California law that allows for the temporary, involuntary psychiatric commitment of individuals who, due to signs of mental illness, present a danger to themselves or others.)
The police log of the incident, a copy of which Reed-Bass attached to her declaration, says a female who called 9-1-1 reported that a male at one point threw his gun. The log says that the male could be heard crying by the dispatcher.
Bass did not reply to requests for comment on Reed-Bass’ allegations.
However, in a Jan. 12, 2009, court filing addressing the New Year’s Eve incident, Bass wrote: “I do not normally drink. On this occasion I drank too much, and the alcohol reacted very badly with me. My girlfriend and I left the party. We were not arguing or fighting. Because I drank too much I do not have a recollection of all of the events of the evening. My understanding is that I expressed suicidal thoughts, though I do not remember doing so. I have not had suicidal thoughts previously or since. My girlfriend was concerned and called police. I was interviewed by a mental health (professional) who determined I was not a danger to myself or others, and I was cleared to leave. The incident was reported to my employer, the Chico Police Department … (which) is required under state law to put me on administrative leave because I had expressed suicidal thoughts. This will last until they can complete an investigation.”
Bass’ response to the court did not speak to any misuse of his gun.
Dave Waddell is a contributing writer to ChicoSol.