Political News

Suspect in killing of California deputy has violent past

Posted August 31

A suspect believed to be involved in the shooting of law enforcement officers is taken from the scene by Sacramento County Sheriff's Deputies, Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017, in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

— The suspect in a hotel shootout that killed a California sheriff's deputy and wounded two CHP officers was wanted by federal authorities and has a long and violent criminal history, according to court records.

Thomas Daniel Littlecloud, 32, was in critical condition Thursday at a hospital with life-threatening injuries after the shootout a day before, Sacramento County sheriff's Sgt. Tony Turnbull said.

Littlecloud had been sentenced to California prisons on four separate occasions since 2004 for assault with a semi-automatic weapon, grand theft and evading a police officer.

Federal court records also show a judge ordered his arrest for twice failing to show up in court in July after agreeing to a plea deal to resolve a drug, gun and identity theft case.

Turnbull said Littlecloud used a high-powered rifle Wednesday to shoot through a closed door and wall and injure the two California Highway Patrol officers who were demanding to enter his hotel room.

Turnbull said Littlecloud then went to the room's balcony and fatally shot Deputy Robert French before jumping to the parking lot and speeding away in a stolen car.

Police caught up to Littlecloud a short distance away and arrested him after a brief shootout, Turnbull said.

The violence started after police went to the hotel to investigate a car theft ring and spotted two women drive away in a stolen vehicle. Officers arrested the two women after a high-speed pursuit. One was on probation.

Several officers returned to the hotel to search her room — and encountered Littlecloud, authorities said.

French, 52, a 21-year veteran of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department, was assigned to guard the hotel room balcony while other officers approached the room from the front.

"Investigators did a knock-and-notice and announced themselves at the motel room door to conduct a probation search," Turnbull said.

Littlecloud opened fire, wounding the two CHP officers, he said. Their identities were not released because they are on an undercover assignment, CHP spokeswoman Fran Clader said. The two CHP officers were in stable condition Thursday and expected to recover from their wounds.

Sid Heal, president of the consulting firm California Association of Tactical Officers, said probation searches are mostly routine and peaceful because suspects are on their best behavior.

But he said there can be problems if police let their guard down.

Littlecloud's adult criminal history dates to 2004 and includes a six-year prison sentence for assault with a semi-automatic weapon, a short jail term for possession of an illegal sawed-off shotgun and a three-year prison sentence in 2013 for evading a police officer and possession of a gun.

He also was sentenced to a little more than a year in prison for grand theft in 2004 and then served a similar sentence in 2005 for stealing a car, court records show.

Littlecloud was indicted by a federal grand jury on four felony charges in San Francisco federal court in June 2016. He was released from jail two months later pending trial after his stepmother used a home to secure his $100,000 bail.

The U.S. Marshals' Service was seeking to arrest him.

Littlecloud was found Wednesday with a rifle and a high-capacity magazine, which are illegal to purchase in California, Turnbull said.

Six other sheriff's deputies involved in the shooting will be placed on paid administrative leave while an investigation is conducted, and the Sacramento County District Attorney's office will conduct an independent review.

Priscilla Prendez, 23, of Oakland faces charges of vehicle theft and felony evasion in connection with Wednesday's events, which began as part of a routine stolen vehicle investigation.

She and another woman who were believed to be in a stolen vehicle were chased for 20 miles (32 kilometers) before being apprehended. Arresting officers learned Prendez was on probation and had booked a room in the hotel.

No details have been disclosed about Prendez's relationship to Littlecloud, and police have not named the second woman in the car, who was detained and released.

Sheriff Scott Jones described French as a well-known, well-respected deputy who trained new officers,

"Words aren't going to make an appropriate appreciation of him as a man or his career," Jones said.

In another California shooting involving police, two officers in Bakersfield were hospitalized in stable condition Wednesday they responded to a call about a disturbance at a home and ended up in a shootout in which the suspect was killed.

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Elias reported from San Francisco.

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This story has been updated to remove the identifies of two wounded California Highway Patrol officers. The names of the officers, released by state Sen. Jim Nielsen, were not supposed to be made public because they are part of an undercover investigation.

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