After a tumultuous month with two officer-involved shootings, Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood held a press conference about how he plans to keep deputies safe. This comes just shy of a week after an unnamed gunman ambushed two sheriff’s deputies in Los Angeles. This incident placed the sheriff’s deputies in a heightened state of awareness, and Youngblood asserts that his support for officers’ safety will not waver amidst a string of local attacks.
“Locally we’ve had two ambushes in the last 13 or 14 days. That’s really concerning to me,” he said. “I don’t need to hear from deputies they’re more apprehensive, as I am. There are ambushes that have occurred across this country. It’s unacceptable. We’re not gonna allow a suspect to hurt us, we’re going to protect ourself first.”
The sheriff’s office released body camera video this morning of a confrontation that happened Tuesday. Deputy Ubaldo Weiss responded to a call of a suspicious vehicle in Oildale near the intersection of Moneta and North Chester Avenues at about 1:15 a.m. He approached the vehicle and found it was stolen, and there were two suspects hiding inside. Weiss walked back to his patrol vehicle to await backup, when he heard a noise behind him. That’s when he saw 31-year-old Ricardo Usher charging towards him.
“Subject was running full speed at Deputy Weiss with something in his hand. Deputy Weiss believed that he had a weapon,” Youngblood said. ““When he got very close to Deputy Weiss, Deputy Weiss fired a round and then fired a second round.”
Usher is hospitalized and stable, though he sustained two bullet wounds. Officers did not find a weapon on the scene, but found that Usher had his cell phone. He was arrested at the scene along with the two suspects in the stolen car. They do not appear to be connected in any way, and officers aren’t sure why he charged at Deputy Weiss.
“Why a suspect would do what he did, I can’t answer that question,” Youngblood said.
Deputies also released dashcam footage of a deadly standoff on highway 14 on September 3. Deputy Chrisopher Saldana confronted 37-year-old Fernando Napoles after he reportedly pulled out a shotgun on the road. Saldana determined that Napoles was driving a stolen vehicle after pulling him over. When the deputy approached the vehicle, Napoles pulled out a shotgun and aimed it at Saldana.
Saldana shot Napoles, who died at the scene. No officers were injured in either shooting, and both were placed on administrative leave. Sheriff Youngblood said he plans to put new measures in place to keep deputies safe, but has not provided details on the specific tactics he plans to use.
Kern County has seen 13 officer-involved shootings this year.