By Cathy Locke, Anita Chabria, Hudson Sangree and Tony Bizjak, The Sacramento Bee
Sacramento County Sheriff’s Deputy Robert French died Wednesday in a shootout at an Auburn Boulevard hotel, Sheriff Scott Jones said this afternoon.
French, 52, died on the way to the hospital, Jones said.
He was a 21-year veteran of the department and worked as a training officer with the north area patrol unit.
(Robert French, a 21-year veteran with the department, died on his way to the hospital after a shooting on Wednesday. Courtesy of CBS Sacramento and YouTube)“This is certainly the most difficult thing a department can go through,” Jones said.
“We’ll survive this as a community. We’ve been through it before. But it is painful. It will take a period of grieving.”
French is survived by a live-in girlfriend, adult children and grandchildren, Jones said. “He was a very go-to guy for advice and counsel,” he said.
Two California Highway Patrol officers remained hospitalized Wednesday and are expected to survive, Jones said.
CHP is withholding their names for now, said agency spokesman Chad Hertzell.
Three suspects were arrested in connection with the incident, which began Wednesday morning at the Ramada Inn in the 2600 block of Auburn Boulevard with a stolen vehicle investigation, said Sgt. Tony Turnbull, Sheriff’s Department spokesman.
He said two additional suspects may remain inside the motel.
(Sacramento County Sgt. lays out timeline of officer-involved shooting. Courtesy of KCRA and YouTube)
A vehicle theft task force consisting of CHP officers, sheriff’s deputies and probation officers had gone to to hotel parking lot.
Two suspects, both women, then led law enforcers on a chase about 10:30 a.m. that ended in the Laguna area of Elk Grove, where the women were taken into custody, Turnbull said.
Officers then checked on other possible suspects in a room at the Ramada Inn.
When they knocked on a hotel room door, a man opened fire through the door and struck two CHP officers, Turnbull said.
Additional deputies responded on the the back side of the room. The male suspect, wielding a high-powered rifle, engaged in a shootout that injured a deputy.
The suspect jumped off the balcony and got into a car in the parking lot.
He escaped on Fulton Avenue, then turned onto El Camino Avenue and crashed near Watt Avenue.
He then exchanged gunfire again with officers. He was struck and then arrested.
The suspect and the officers were taken to area hospitals.
The crime scene remained active Wednesday afternoon.
(Sacramento motel guest describes hearing gunshots, seeing woman with assault rifle. Courtesy of KCRA and YouTube)
Two officers walked through the Ramada shortly before 3 p.m., guns drawn, and said they were clearing the hotel floor by floor.
Turnbull told reporters at a 3 p.m. press conference that two possible suspects may remain in the motel.
Ramada guest Oneasha Martin, 23, said she woke up shortly before noon to the sound of gunshots. She came out of her room but police yelled at her to get back inside.
She saw an officer taken away by ambulance.
The incident unfolded in a part of Fulton Avenue that is lined with used car lots and related businesses.
About a dozen police vehicles remained parked Wednesday afternoon near the arch that was erected some years ago as an effort to brand the street. Helicopters circled overhead.
Mike Atayas operates Atayas Motors next to the Ramada. He said he was working out back when he heard a long volley of gunshots, “like a machine gun.”
“It kept going and going and it didn’t stop,” Atayas said.
Atayas said he saw a gray Challenger drive wildly down Fulton Avenue shortly after he heard the shots. “It was crashing into everything,” he said.
At Primetime Autos, a used car lot on Auburn Boulevard near the Ramada, Raj Singhl said he heard “a lot of gunshots and cars driving by.”
“Then the cops came to our shop and said, ‘Stay down and keep it locked.’ ”
(Dozens of officers swarm streets near Sacramento County shooting scene. Courtesy of KCRA and YouTube)
That was about 11:45, Singh said. He said he first heard two or three individual gunshots, then a volley of rapid fire.
He said after hearing the shots, he went outside, where he had employees working, to make sure they were safe.
The police told them to get inside. They ducked behind some cars at first, then went in and locked the doors.
Several major roadways and intersections near the shooting scene remain closed indefinitely, including the intersection of Fulton Avenue and Auburn Boulevard, as officers from around the region respond to the scene.
Traffic on the nearby Business 80 freeway continues to flow, but eastbound freeway traffic is moving at stop-and-go pace.
Both the westbound and eastbound off-ramps from Business 80 to Fulton Avenue are closed.
Westbound traffic on Business 80 also is congested just east of the site near Watt Avenue due to a collision that appears to be unrelated to the shooting.
Nearby El Camino Fundamental High School was placed in a precautionary shelter-in-place Wednesday afternoon because of the shooting.
But the shelter-in-place was later lifted and school ended at the usual time of 2:58 p.m., according to Trent Allen, Sacramento Unified School District spokesman.
Due to the closure of El Camino Avenue as part of the investigation, students were released along Eastern Avenue.
Wednesday’s triple-shooting took place about five miles from the site of the former Motel 6, since razed, where Sacramento County Sheriff’s Deputy Danny Oliver was shot in October 2014 when he checked on a couple sitting in a car in the parking lot.
(Learn More, courtesy of CBS Evening News and YouTube. Posted on Oct 25, 2014)
The couple then allegedly embarked on a shooting spree that also killed Placer County sheriff’s Deputy Michael Davis Jr. and wounded a third deputy.
Luis Monroy Bracamontes and his wife, Janelle Monroy, are awaiting trial in the case.
Editor’s note: Our condolences to the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department. Our thoughts and prayers are with Deputy French, his family and the CHP Officers injured in the incident.
Your life mattered Deputy French. May you rest in peace Sir.