SOMERSET — Three men have been charged in connection with the fatal shooting of a Northern California sheriff’s deputy who was killed while responding to a falsely reported theft from an illegal marijuana growing operation in the rural Sierra Nevada foothills, authorities said Thursday.
El Dorado County Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Ishmael, 37, was slain early Wednesday morning in the community of Somerset. An off-duty sheriff’s deputy from San Joaquin County was doing a ride-along with Ishmael and was also shot.
The pair were responding to a 911 call reporting people stealing marijuana plants outside a private residence. But the caller, Christopher Ross, did not tell police that he had a business arrangement with the growers, leasing the land to them for the plants.
“Had he been truthful with our deputies and the 911 dispatcher, this tragedy would not have occurred,” El Dorado County Sheriff John D’Agostini told reporters.
Ross, 47, is charged with involuntary manslaughter and remains incarcerated on $50,000 bail, jail records show.
When Ishmael and the off-duty deputy announced their presence at the 75-plant growing operation, “they were immediately confronted with gunfire,” D’Agostini said. Both returned fire.
Ishmael was struck once in the upper chest, above his bulletproof vest, and once in the foot, the sheriff said. The off-duty deputy, whose name has not been made public, was hit once in the upper thigh and tried to help Ishmael, but he died in minutes.
Ishmael Was a Four-Year Veteran of the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office
A SWAT team and other officers surrounded the residence and growing operation for hours before they arrested two men.
The alleged gunman, Juan Carlos Vasquez Orozco, underwent surgery for gunshot wounds, D’Agostini said. He was arrested on suspicion of murder and assault with a deadly weapon but has not been booked yet.
Ramiro Bravo Morales, 22, is charged with being an accessory and is in custody on $250,000 bail. It was not immediately clear if any of the suspects had attorneys who could speak on their behalf.
The arrests were first reported by The Sacramento Bee.
Orozco and Morales are Mexican nationals, D’Agostini said, adding that he did not know if they were in the United States legally.
D’Agostini said current laws do not adequately deal with marijuana growing operations.
“There’s a lot of violence that surrounds these gardens and we’re seeing a perfect example of it right now,” he said.
Ishmael was a four-year veteran of the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office and had worked two years for the Placerville Police Department. He is survived by a wife and three daughters.