PORTOLA - A Plumas County sheriff's deputy who killed a hospital patient during a violent struggle early Sunday morning is being praised by the sheriff and the hospital staff for preventing further bloodshed.
Update: Patient ID'd in fatal Plumas deputy hospital shooting
The unnamed deputy, a four-year department veteran, was the lone responder just after midnight Saturday when staff at the Eastern Plumas Health Care Center called to report the 53-year-old patient in room 201 was scaring the nurses.
Sheriff Greg Hagwood described the patient's behavior as "menancing."
"He had barricaded himself into the room and made preparations for an attack," Hagwood said.
The nearest backup was in Quincy, a 30-minute drive with lights and siren.
The deputy discovered the patient had wrapped himself in a mattress, fortified his legs with braces and wore heavy rubber boots.
The 6-foot-3-inch, 335 lb. deputy is described by his boss as "the strongest man I know," but the sheriff says the deputy's struggle with the 6-foot, 250 lb. patient nearly cost him his life.
The two men initially fought over the deputy's taser-- and when the deputy couldn't take it away from the man, the deputy broke it to make sure it wouldn't be used against him.
The fight continued in front of the nurses' station, then down a long hallway toward the front lobby, where the patient reportedly tried to attack the deputy with his own baton.
Hagwood says that in the lobby the patient managed to fire a round from the deputy's handgun while it was still holstered-- and that's when the deputy pulled the gun from the holster and ultimately shot the man to death.
"It was a horrifically violent attack on the officer with the demonstrated intent to, I believe, kill the deputy," Hagwood said.
Hagwood also believes the patient would have killed hospital staff if he'd gained control of the deputy's gun.
Eastern Plumas Health Care Center CEO Thomas Hayes echoed the sheriff's opinion.
"There's no question they were afraid," Hayes said. "And they were very appreciative of the sheriff's deputy that came and helped them through all of this."
Hayes said he could not discuss why the man had checked into the hospital earlier in the day.
Hagwood said the man had had 175 contacts with the sheriff's department prior to the fatal encounter.
The identity of the man was being withheld because sheriff's officials couldn't find his next of kin. Hagwood says the man has two grown sons, both of whom are homeless.
Three separate investigations into the shooting are underway; one by the Plumas County District Attorney, one by the California Department of Justice, and an internal affairs review by an outside police agency.
The deputy has been placed on leave pending the outcome.
"I'm confident he'll be vindicated," Hagwood said.
by George Warren, GWarren@news10.net