MENDOCINO Co., 12/6/12 — This is an interesting one — a Sunday convoy that frightened locals into thinking a raid was imminent, a domestic dispute involving a fight over a gun, a response by the SWAT team, and eventually arrests for possessing a firearm, negligently firing a firearm, and possession of a shopping cart.
On Sunday, Dec. 4, several people spotted a “convoy” of sheriff’s
vehicles heading up Hwy. 101 from Laytonville. The convoy included what sources reported to be a SWAT vehicle, and police in full protective gear — and eventually stopped at a property on the west side of the highway, between Area 101 and the turn off for Bell Springs Rd., in 56300 block of the 101.
The lot in question is notable for its imposing fencing, made of chain link with black tarps, that have the words “no trespassing” and “dog bite” scrawled on them. The presence of this convoy caused a bit of a stir, some head-scratching, and a touch of the usual fear among the locals. The situation resolved peacefully with no major incidents, but the presence of the SWAT team allowed us to ask a couple follow up questions to provide you with a little extra info on the workings of Mendocino County’s SWAT team, and a couple of bits of information about the workings of our judicial system.
The convoy was not headed to a raid, instead, as we learned from a press release issued by the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) yesterday, the SWAT team was called out to deal with an extended domestic dispute, and to arrest a woman for violating her probation by possessing firearms.
As explained in the release: the suspect, Regina Gibbs, 52, and a male victim, unnamed and 41 years old, both live on the property. They had previously been involved in a relationship, but no longer are. According to the release, on Tuesday Nov. 29, the victim was poking around outside the main residence looking for some property of his. He saw Gibbs enter the main residence and heard a gun go off, at which point Gibbs exited, holding a large caliber gun that the victim claims was his, and that Gibbs had stolen. However, he had not reported the gun as stolen.
The victim told MCSO that he then approached Gibbs and tried to take the gun from her. A small scuffle ensued and a shot was fired, but no one was injured. The victim said that he then retrieved the rest of his “property” and went to his residence on the same property, at which point he called the sheriffs. When deputies arrived Gibbs refused the open the door.
An investigation showed that Gibbs was a convicted felon and therefore was not allowed to possess or fire a gun, or possess ammunition. They authored a search warrant and sought an arrest warrant for “discharging a firearm in a grossly negligent manner, being a felon in possession of a firearm, and being a felon in possession of ammunition.”
For the arrest warrant deputies sought a “Ramey warrant.” [footnote]A situation ruled on by the California Supreme Court in the case the People vs. Ramey, in 1976.[/footnote] This is different kind of warrant from the standard arrest warrant. In a standard arrest warrant the police go to the district attorney’s office, who then decides if there is sufficient evidence to formally charge a suspect and ask a judge for a warrant to arrest. A Ramey warrant occurs when police bypass the D.A. and go directly to a judge. No formal charge is made, but the judge authorizes an arrest to be made. This can be done in the hopes that the arrest will result in incriminating statements, a confession or collection of enough evidence to then bring a formal charge, or it can be done if the D.A. is simply too busy to process the case, and police deem the situation urgent enough to proceed without delay.
MCSO’s Lt. Shannon Barney explained that the deputy initially
involved in the dispute requested the SWAT team during a briefing on the incident, after which the SWAT commander was consulted to arrange the call. On the morning of Sunday, Dec. 4, at about 10am the SWAT team and other deputies rolled out, up the 101 to the property. According to Barney SWAT arrived, “She looked at the front, closed the door, wouldn’t come out,” The suspect then went out the back of the building. Barney noted that Gibbs may have been considering running, “[But] realized: oh we’re out back too.” With law enforcement all around the building, Gibbs then surrendered “without incident.”
Gibbs was arrested and charged with: discharging a firearm in a grossly negligent manner, felon in possession of a firearm, felon in possession of ammunition. She is being held on $150,000 bail. While at the property the sheriffs deputies also chanced upon one Theodore Burgess who had an outstanding warrant for illegal possession of a shopping cart; he was arrested and his bail set at $2500.
The Mendo Voice inquired with the MCSO about their policy on the use of SWAT, and were provided with an explanation by Lt. Barney. He described a “matrix” or “point system” that is used to decided when to call in SWAT — points are assigned for potential weapons, criminal history, and the accessibility of the residence. The team can also be called in if a direct request is made, or if the SWAT commander believes the situation might warrant it. In this case Barney explained, “We have quite a bit of history with her,” and that she has not been “always cooperative.”
Barney elaborated that there are generally only two deputies working in a sector, and that having the SWAT team present brings more people into the mix, allows for more control and easy access to back-up. He related that the MCSO sometimes does training the the San Francisco Police Department, saying, “They panic if there backup isn’t there in 30 seconds — we say, what about 3 hours?”
He described SWAT as, “more of an assist,” noting most of the team is made of of patrol deputies or sergeants, and several members of the Ukiah Police Department and Fort Bragg Police Department. Willits Police Department has provided deputies in the past but does not do so currently due to staffing levels. The SWAT team also has two medics, and in addition paramedics are called out with them in case they are needed.
He continued explaining the special roles within the SWAT team — there are entry people who can batter down a door, trained snipers if needed, and hostage negotiators. In the case of Gibbs, he said that she had previously barricaded herself in the house, adding, “We try and get her to come out, not just break the doors down and go storm trooping, we try to negotiate peaceful surrender.
“A lot of SWAT is about — you overwhelm them with the show of force,” he explained. Noting that a suspect might decide believe themselves able to outrun or outfight two deputies, but that, “[If you] show up with 10 [people], they realize that’s kind of futile. Most of these are resolved that way.”
It should further be noted that the vehicle featured in the photo sent in by a source, the boxy white and green van, is a former ambulance that has been converted into an equipment vehicle and tactical dispatcher for the SWAT team.
Here is the full statement from the MCSO, The Mendocino Voice has not independently confirmed anything in this statement, all suspects are considered innocent until proven guilty:
DATE: "December 5, 2016"
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Incident Number: 16-36848
Crime/Incident: 246.3(a) PC [Discharge Firearm in a Grossly Negligent Manner]
29800(a)(1) PC [Felon in Possession of a Firearm]
30305(a)(1) PC [Felon in Possession of Ammunition]
22435.2(b) B&P [Arrest warrant for Possession of a Shopping Cart]
Location: 56300 North Highway 101, Leggett CA
Date of Incident: 11/29/2016
Time: 2:47 PM
Victim(s): Adult Male, 41 years of age, Leggett CA
Suspect(s): Regina Gibbs, 52 years of age, Leggett CA
Theodore Burgess, 51 years of age, Leggett CA
Written By: Lieutenant Shannon Barney
Synopsis: On 11/29/2016 around 2:47 PM Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputies were dispatched to the 56300 Block of North Highway 101 in Leggett CA regarding a domestic dispute with a firearm being discharged. Deputies contacted the 41 year old male victim who advised that he and Suspect Regina Gibbs had a previous relationship, are no longer seeing each other, but live on the same property. Shortly before calling the deputies the victim approached Gibbs to recover some property of his that she was in possession of. While looking for the property outside the main residence the victim saw Gibbs enter her residence and a short time later he heard a gun discharge inside. Gibbs then exited the residence holding a large caliber handgun. The victim recognized the handgun as belonging to him and said it had been stolen approximately 4 weeks before. He said he had not reported the firearm stolen and he was also missing a .223 caliber rifle. The victim approached Gibbs and tried to get the handgun from her where a minor struggle ensued, over the weapon, and the firearm was discharged again. No one was injured by either shot that was fired. The victim was able to gain possession of the weapon and other property from Gibbs and he left to his own residence located on the same property where he called the Sheriff's Office.
Deputies attempted contact with Gibbs at that time but she refused to open the door or speak to them. The investigation showed Gibbs was a convicted felon thus she was prohibited from owning, possessing, or having access to any firearms or ammunition. Deputies then authored a search warrant to enter the residence to search for firearms, ammunition, and or evidence of the crimes reported. Deputies also authorized a Ramey (arrest) warrant charging Gibbs with discharging a firearm in a grossly negligent manner, being a felon in possession of a firearm, and being a felon in possession of ammunition.
On 12/4/2016 around 9:45 AM members of the Mendocino Inter-agency SWAT Team assembled to serve the two warrants. Due to Gibbs' previous criminal history, the fact that she had used a firearm in this case, and the fact that she might be in possession of additional firearms belonging to the victim SWAT was determined to be the best unit to effectively serve the two warrants. The SWAT Team approached the residence and Gibbs attempted to flee via the rear door of the residence where she was confronted by SWAT team members who demanded she stop, which she did. She was taken into custody without further incident. At the time of her arrest she was armed with a large knife but no other weapons were found on her person.
While at the location Suspect Theodore Burgess was also contacted. Burgess was found to have an outstanding warrant for his arrest for illegal possession of a shopping cart. Gibbs and Burgess were both arrested and booked into the County Jail. Gibbs was booked for negligent discharge of a firearm, being a felon in possession of a firearm, and being a felon in possession of ammunition. Her bail was set at $150,000. Burgess was booked into the County jail on the outstanding warrant and his bail was set at $2500.
Approved by: Lieutenant Shannon Barney