Police Shooting Investigation

Two suspects in critical but stable condition



Four Humboldt County Sheriff's Office officers remain on paid administrative leave following an April 18 police shooting at a busy Eureka intersection after two suspects in an armed robbery and pedestrian hit-and-run crashed into another vehicle while fleeing a deputy.

The suspects, identified by law enforcement as brothers Brandon Widmark, 27, and Jesse Widmark, 18, both suffered multiple gunshot wounds. As of Tuesday, they were listed in critical but stable condition, according to the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office.

At least six others were also injured, two seriously, in a series of incidents allegedly tied to the suspects that began with a report of an armed robbery and assault near the Bayshore Mall at 2:49 p.m. and ended with police shooting them 28 minutes later, allegedly after they brandished weapons and fired at officers.

No police were injured.

At a joint Eureka Police Department and Humboldt County Sheriff's Office press conference called a day after the shooting, Sheriff William Honsal said the pursuit began at 3:15 p.m. after a deputy on patrol in the Cutten area spotted a red 2004 Ford F-250 matching the description of one reported to have fled both the Bayshore Mall scene and a pedestrian hit-and-run at West Washington and Summer streets that occurred shortly afterward.

Honsal said the suspects' vehicle fled up Dolbeer Street at a "high rate of speed" after the deputy attempted to pull it over and collided with a Toyota truck at the intersection with Harris Street moments later, with both vehicles coming to rest in a private yard.

According to Honsal, the two suspects emerged from the red truck following the crash "armed with rifles pointed at the deputy across the intersection" and fired at least one shot, hitting the deputy's vehicle.

Two deputies, who arrived as backup in an unmarked HCSO truck and pulled alongside the suspects' truck, fired their weapons at the suspects, as did another deputy, who had pulled up across the street, the sheriff said.

Honsal said the "suspects were struck by gunfire," dropping their weapons at that point. They were taken into custody and deputies initiated medical aid until the ambulance arrived.

Two other people in the suspects' truck — a 37-year-old woman and a 2-year-old child — received minor injuries in the crash. The 42-year-old driver of the Toyota that was hit sustained moderate injuries, while a 27-year-old female passenger received major injuries. A 2-year-old boy with them was not physically injured, according to officials.

The 33-year-old male Bayshore Mall assault victim suffered minor head injuries from being hit with a gun, and the 34-year-old male pedestrian received major injuries. He was reported to be in stable but critical condition as of April 19.

Two schools and a preschool in the vicinity of the shooting were placed on lockdown.

The three law enforcement officers who fired their weapons were identified as a sheriff's office sergeant with 14 years of experience, a deputy with six years of experience and a deputy with 10 years of experience. The deputy involved in the initial pursuit has five years of experience.

They were all placed on administrative leave pending an administrative investigation, according to the HCSO, which is standard protocol.

HCSO spokesperson Samantha Karges told the Journal in an email Tuesday that the officers' names will be released, and she anticipated that would happen soon but did not have a specific date.

EPD and the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office are heading the ongoing multi-agency investigation into the shooting.

"We will conduct the investigation start to finish and eventually send the case to the district attorney's office for potential prosecution," Eureka Police Chief Todd Jarvis said at the April 19 press conference.

Officials have not released how many shots were fired by HCSO personnel or how many times the suspects were hit.

"At this point in the investigation, we can only share that multiple rounds were fired by the deputies and at least one round was fired by the suspects," Karges said in an email Tuesday.

Honsal released similar information April 19, stating that evidence collected at the scene indicates "there were multiple shots fired by at least two deputies."

In response to follow-up questions on why more specific information was not being released at this time, Karges stated it was not the HCSO's intention to conceal information and noted it had only been seven days since the incident occurred.

She also said that criminal charges have not yet been filed.

"The investigation is still underway and has not yet been sent to the District Attorney's Office," Karges said. "As to not jeopardize this investigation, further information will not be released."

EPD Assistant Chief Brian Stephens responded to an email late Tuesday but similarly declined to release additional information in the case, citing the early stage of the investigation.

Honsal said the deputies did have body-worn cameras but they "were not activated at the time of the incident" and were only turned on afterward. When asked why the cameras were not on, the sheriff said, "That's going to be a question that we will be asking."

The sheriff said private video showing "some segments of this incident" was also recovered.

The Widmark brothers, who are believed to currently reside in Mendocino County but have "family ties to Humboldt County and frequently come here," are also suspected in an April 14 robbery that occurred in the Valley West area of Arcata, Honsal said.

According to HCSO, three weapons associated with the suspects were recovered during the scene investigation: a Winchester Model 70 bolt-action 270 rifle, a Marlin Model 60 .22 caliber long rifle and a Sigsauer M17 Airsoft handgun.

Jarvis asked anyone with information about the case or suspects to contact Eureka Police Department Detective Raymond Nunez at (707) 441-4109.

Kimberly Wear (she/her) is the Journal's digital editor. Reach her at 442-1400, extension 323, or [email protected].


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