Kern Sheriff’s Office won’t discuss eighth fatal officer-involved shooting of the year

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A sheriff’s deputy shot a man dead Thursday morning, but now KCSO won’t talk about it, even though the department is already under investigation by the state for abuse of authority.

The shooting happened in a remote area of the desert on Highway 14 near Redrock Randsburg Road, about an hour and a half east of Bakersfield. This marks KCSO’s eighth fatal officer-involved shooting of the year.

In a brief news release, KCSO said deputies were called to a report of a man walking with a gun along Highway 14. There were two vehicles in the area somehow related to the man with the gun, the news release said, but didn’t say how they were related. When the first deputy arrived, a man with a gun got out of one of the cars, according to the release. The man raised a firearm at the deputy and, the release said, “an officer involved shooting occurred, which resulted in fatal injuries to the suspect.”

A shotgun was located with the dead man, the release said. The deputy was not hurt.

This all happened before seven in the morning, but the events weren’t revealed until three in the afternoon when the scene had been cleared. When we followed up with questions the next day, the sheriff and a spokesman refused to comment other than to say the investigation is ongoing.

Some of the questions we wanted to ask include: was there body cam video? Who called deputies and why?

Was the man walking with the firearm the same man with a gun who got out of the car? If there were two cars, were other people involved in the confrontation? If so, how did they describe events?

The news release references “The first deputy.” Was there more than one deputy there? The news release also said a firearm was brandished and a shotgun was found at the scene. Were they the same gun?

If the man had a shotgun, could this have been related to dove season, which started Tuesday?

Beyond the name of the victim, we want to know his age and ethnicity.

How many times did the deputy shoot? And was there any attempt at de-escalation before shots were fired?

In 2015, independent studies by KGET and the Guardian newspaper found BPD and KCSO had the highest kill rate in America with a combined 23 officer-involved shootings that year.

The number dropped drastically to eight the next year, then 11 in 2017, 12 in 2018, 12 in 2019, and 12 in 2020 with four months still left to go.

Since 2017, BPD and KCSO have been under investigation by the California Attorney General’s Office.

“It’s public information that the California Department of Justice is undertaking a pattern and practice investigation involving the Kern County Sheriff’s Department and the Bakersfield Police Department. That investigation is in process,” said Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “We find troubling evidence that the way that the agency is conducting its business may fly in the face of constitutional statutory protections against police overuse of tactics and policies that would impact the rights of individuals who confront law enforcement.”

Sheriff Youngblood directly responded to that statement from the Attorney General in June.

“We asked the Department of Justice to tell us along the way if they were seeing things that were really critical that we needed to change so that we can look at those, and we’ve gotten no direction,” Sheriff Youngblood said. “We haven’t heard from them in about six months, so they’ve finished their investigation, at least that’s what we were told, and now they’re writing a report.”

We asked for an interview with Sheriff Youngblood Friday morning. He declined.

However, back in May, he told us in an interview about police brutality: “Remember that we hire from the human race and there’s imperfection in that… We hope that (deputies are) in control, we train them to be in control, we do background checks, psychological’s to try to get the best of the best, but if we think that we’re going to have a perfect organization, that’s never going to have this situation again, we’re wrong because it’s just not possible.”

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