The small California town of Ben Lomond was the scene of a shootout on June 6 that resulted in the death of a Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office deputy and left another deputy and a California Highway Patrol officer wounded. A 32-year-old U.S. Air Force sergeant, who was also injured in the exchange, is reportedly the shooter. He was transported by paramedics to a nearby hospital. Reports indicate that he may face first-degree murder charges.

The chain of events began when a citizen called emergency operators about a white van that appeared to contain firearms and bomb-making equipment. Deputies located the van and followed it to a residence near Santa Cruz. When deputies approached the van, the man is alleged to have responded by exiting the vehicle and opening fire. A deputy sergeant injured in the exchange was pronounced dead shortly after being admitted to hospital.

The man was taken into custody following a short foot pursuit. He allegedly attempted to carjack two vehicles in his attempt to escape. A records check revealed that he was a member of an elite unit tasked with providing additional security at high-risk Air Force Installations. Federal Bureau of Investigation agents believe that he may also have been involved in a recent shooting outside a courthouse in Oakland because the shooter in that incident also used a white van.

When a law enforcement officer is killed in the line of duty, prosecutors may be less willing to offer sentencing concessions during plea negotiations. However, they may also seek a swift resolution to reduce media attention and avoid the risks of a jury trial. In these situations, experienced criminal defense attorneys might point out the difficulty of proving guilt beyond reasonable doubt and the publicity that a trial would likely attract.