Deputies cleared in fatal shooting
Calling the incident a “tragedy all the way around,” District Attorney Mike Ramsey closed the case this week on an officer-involved shooting that left a mentally unstable man dead in the hills near Rackerby Feb. 4.
The following is an account given by Ramsey on the eve of a press conference in which he ruled the shooting justified and absolved the three Butte County Sheriffs deputies involved of any blame. Ramsey heads up the multi-agency Officer-Involved Shooting Protocol team, which investigates such incidents.
The trouble started at a home in the mountain village of Hurleton, where Chad Terrio, 22, had been staying with his aunt and uncle. Terrio had no criminal record to speak of but had displayed symptoms of schizophrenia since receiving brain damage in a fight that occurred when he was 17 in his hometown of Crescent City. He’d been living “relative to relative” in Butte County since September 2005.
At about 6 p.m. Feb. 4, Terrio’s aunt called the sheriff’s office to ask about the procedure for committing Terrio to a mental health facility. He’d apparently been refusing to take his medications, which prompted an argument. No action was taken at this time, Ramsey said, because Terrio did not meet the criteria for a “5150” commitment.
But Terrio became more agitated as the night wore on, and just after 8 p.m., Terrio’s family again called 911 to report that he had threatened them with a knife, grabbed a sleeping bag and backpack and then run off into the night.
Deputies Jason Lewis, a department veteran and K-9 handler who was training rookie deputy Tim Langel, responded in one car. It was Langel’s fifth night on the job. Deputy Todd Reinhardt, who had special training dealing with mentally ill suspects, responded in another car.
Terrio, meanwhile, wandered onto a neighboring property where a Modesto couple happened to be camping at the time. He joined their campfire, telling the couple he was lost, but soon made the couple nervous with some of his remarks.
“He started talking to them about things that made them concerned he wasn’t ‘quite right',” Ramsey said. “The deputies were searching for Chad when they arrived in the same general area. The female half of this Modesto couple, seeing the sheriffs’ cars … went down and met with them.”
This was at 8:56 p.m., according to dispatch records. Deputies proceeded into the remote parcel and found Terrio by the fire with his hands in the pouch of his oversized sweatshirt. Deputies asked Terrio if he was all right, to which he did not respond. They then asked him to bring his hands out where they could see them. Events happened quickly from that point on.
“They knew that he had a knife from talking to the aunt and uncle,” Ramsey said. “Chad at that point refused profanely the officers request.”
After repeated requests for Terrio to show his hands, Deputy Lewis deployed his dog, which bit Terrio on the arm and leg, “with no apparent effect.” When the dog returned to Lewis’ side, Terrio produced a seven-inch “Bear Hunter” model folding knife with a 3-inch blade.
Lewis then brought out and fired his taser weapon. But the weapon’s barbed probes caught in Terrio’s sweatshirt, failing to pierce his skin. Terrio brushed the probes out and began to “backpedal” away from the officers. Reinhardt then deployed his taser, “again with no apparent effect.” The deputies chased Terrio up a darkened path leading to a 3-foot-tall equipment trailer. With the Modesto man illuminating the scene with his flashlight, Terrio jumped onto the trailer and began taunting the officers with verbal threats and waving the knife around in what deputies later called “karate-ninja movements.”
Again deputies deployed a taser, using up their last cartridge with no effect. Terrio, who was surrounded by the deputies at that point, reportedly shouted, “You’re going to have to kill me.”
“Chad then shifts the position of the knife in his hand,” Ramsey said, describing a grip that would enable a downward stabbing motion. “Then [he] makes a sudden, aggressive lunge towards Deputy Lewis, who is five to 10 feet away.”
Lewis and Langel fired four times between them with their .45 caliber service weapons. Terrio was hit in the leg, arm, abdomen and chest. While calling in a “shots fired” report at 9:06 p.m., deputies performed CPR and asked for medical assistance. A FlightCare helicopter from Enloe Medical Center was first on the scene after about 25 minutes, but it was too late for Terrio. He was pronounced dead by paramedics at the scene.