Cops kill parolee

Citing preliminary results of an investigation into the shooting of a suspect by Chico Police Friday, Oct. 14, District Attorney Mike Ramsey said this week that police likely used appropriate force.

“I’ve got a pretty good idea it was a clean shoot,” Ramsey said. “From talking to the uninvolved witnesses, plus the involved officers, plus the forensics that have been done this far … I have little doubt it will be confirmed.”

Ramsey was speaking Tuesday night, the day before an autopsy was scheduled for Nathan Daniel Butts, a 20-year-old parolee from Susanville who was shot at least five times by officers trying to apprehend him on suspicion of illegal activities.

The shooting occurred just after 10 p.m. at the Valero gas station on The Esplanade, but the incident really began across town at the Chico Mall, where, earlier that afternoon, a citizen told police he was approached by a group of people offering to sell, among other items, a loaded .22 revolver.

“It was one of these, ‘Psst … You want a cheap stereo? How about a gun?’ type of things.” Ramsey said. “The citizen was shown the cylinder and saw that it was fully loaded, so that citizen called Chico Police.”

Police took a description of the would-be parking lot gun vendors, as well as that of the car they were traveling in, a red Hyundai Accent. When officers later spotted the car, they initiated a stop at the Valero gas station, which was closed for the night. Officers then asked the five occupants, three men and two women, to exit the vehicle.

But when the last man in the car was ordered out, he jumped from the back seat to the front and started the engine, Ramsey said. The suspect then reportedly threw the car into reverse and drove backward with “screeching tires, going back about 30 feet, foot to the floor.”

After colliding with a patrol car, the suspect reportedly put the car into a forward gear and drove toward an officer, who was standing over one of the apprehended suspects on the ground.

“Everyone was yelling at him, ‘Stop, stop,'” Ramsey said. “The suspect then jams it into forward and turns the wheel sharply to the right. He could’ve turned the wheel to the left and gone out that direction and been OK. When he turned it to the right, that meant to the officers [that] he was going to run over either the guy that was prone on the ground or the officers that were standing with the prone guy. That’s when the officers had to make the decision [to use deadly force].”

A police press release states that officers Lowe, Ruppel, Olson, Bass, and Seipert collectively fired 20 rounds toward the suspect. Two of those rounds, Ramsey said, were shot intentionally into one of the vehicle’s front tires in an effort to stop the car. Butts received fatal wounds in his head and upper body. He was reportedly given medical aid at the scene and then transported to Enloe, where he died Saturday afternoon.

Officers recovered the gun the group had allegedly been trying to sell and are attempting to trace it back to its lawful owner. Two of the males in the car were charged with being under the influence of marijuana and meth, which Ramsey said they admitted to consuming before being pulled over. Charges of possession of stolen property may also be pending. The two females in the car, one 17, the other 18, were released.

This is the second time this year Chico police have shot and killed a suspect in a moving vehicle. The last such incident occurred June 3, when Lavell Proctor, a parole violator and shooting suspect, was shot as he was either fleeing from or trying to run over a police officer. That incident provoked cries of racism from some community activists, as Proctor was black and unarmed when he was shot. Butts’ death marks at least the fourth officer-involved shooting in Chico this year.