Weekend warriors

Chico police officers had their hands full over the holiday

Photo By illustration by tina flynn

Crime spree:
1. Battery, 300 block of Ivy Street, 11:50 p.m. May 5.
2. Hit and run, Third and Hazel streets, 1:37 a.m. May 6.
3. Shooting No. 1, Fourth and Cherry streets, 2:36 a.m. May 6.
4. Shooting No. 2, Columbus Avenue, 3:08 a.m. May 6.

During the early morning hours of Saturday, May 6, Chico Police Department officers found 23-year- old John Andreazzi bleeding from a gunshot wound to his head.

Andreazzi, a resident of Rocklin out on the town with a friend, was approached near the corner of West Fourth and Cherry streets by a stranger brandishing a handgun, demanding his wallet and cell phone. Andreazzi attempted to fend off the man and was shot in the ensuing struggle. His attacker fled before police arrived.

It had already been an unusually violent Cinco de Mayo for the CPD, which responded to an assault and a hit-and-run earlier that evening. So when police received a fourth call reporting another gunshot victim on Columbus Avenue not 30 minutes after arriving on the scene of the Andreazzi shooting, it was clear the department was stretched too thin.

In order to cover the rest of the city while night-shift officers dealt with the back-to-back shootings, the entire day shift scheduled for the morning of May 6 was called in early. CPD also received assistance from California Highway Patrol, Butte County Sheriff’s Office and Chico State University Police.

“Whenever you have multiple critical incidents like that, it’s very taxing for officers,” said Lt. Mike O’Brien of CPD’s criminal investigation section. “Things are left sitting on the call screen and don’t get responded to until we have officers available. It’s a priority game for us.”

The department anticipated a high-activity weekend based on several factors—a holiday falling on a Saturday, the semester nearing its end, and some of the first warm weather of the year. The conditions were just right for partying, but officers did not foresee the outright violence they encountered.

“When the weather turns nice, particularly toward the end of the semester, we know we’re going to be busy,” O’Brien said. “Violence during the weekend is not uncommon, but having it occur almost simultaneously to the other events is unusual.”

The events in question began shortly before midnight on May 5, as officers arrived at the 300 block of Ivy Street to find 23-year-old Austin Jones of Walnut Creek lying unconscious in the roadway. He was the victim of a beating in which he was allegedly tackled by 18-year-old Butte College student Dominique Harris.

Witnesses reported seeing Harris—who was arrested several blocks north on Ivy Street—kicking, punching and kneeing Jones as he lay unconscious. Harris was booked into Butte County Jail on $50,000 bail.

Then, a few hours later (about 1:30 a.m. on May 6), 25-year-old Chicoan Nathaniel Barbour allegedly drove away after striking two pedestrians—24-year-old Oscar Sanchez of Gerber and 24-year-old Thomas Sullivan from Santa Rosa—in the intersection of West Third and Hazel streets. Witnesses provided a description of Barbour’s vehicle, and an officer pulled him over at the Circle K gas station on East Avenue. He was arrested on charges of driving under the influence and felony hit-and-run.

Following the armed robbery of Andreazzi, officers were alerted to a second shooting on Columbus Avenue just after 3 a.m. In the midst of a large party, a 31-year-old Paradise resident (whose name has been withheld) was shot in the upper stomach. Police believe the shooting was the result of a personal conflict.

“This one was a little different,” O’Brien said. “We believe the victim and suspect knew each other and there were a number of witnesses who know who the suspect is, and we need them to come forward.”

The Paradise man underwent surgery at Enloe Medical Center and was last reported in fair condition.

Though such a night is certainly the exception, Chico State spokesman Joe Wills said he thinks everyone should be wary while out at night, particularly in the south-campus and downtown areas.

“Chico is a safe and friendly place to live, but it is not crime-free,” he said. “Some students have a false sense of safety. Chico is not crime-free—there are people who will take advantage of you.”