The officer involved shooting of Sengaroune Silaphanhdeth at Gold Country Casino on July 2, 2013 has been determined to be justified by the Butte County Officer Involved Shooting/Critical Incident Protocol team.
Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey called a press conference July 17, 2013 where he gave a very informative, detailed account of the case where Deputies Jason Piazza and Jeff McNulty responded to a call from security employees of Gold Country Casino in Oroville reporting that a subject had flashed a firearm at a patron in the parking lot.
Upon arriving, Deputy Piazza approached the silver Nissan pickup truck at the driver's side where the driver was either asleep or passed out with the windshield wipers functioning.
Deputy Piazza began to pat the driver's arm to arouse him and asked what he was doing in the parking lot. Noting that the engine was on, the driver began to rev the engine. The deputy could smell alcohol and marijuana coming from the subject's breath and interior of the vehicle.
As Deputy Piazza asked the driver to step out of the vehicle, he noticed the subject looking down at the floorboard of the truck, an area the Deputy could not see.
Members of the media were shown surveillance tape taken by the casino which depicts the entire encounter and Ramsey showed it in real time several times along with in slow motion.
The clarity of the surveillance tape was instrumental for the protocol team as it showed the situation from three different angles.
Ramsey also provided a three page letter submitted to Sheriff Jerry Smith with a second by second explanation of how the shooting occurred. The times referred to by Ramsey were from the time stamp imbedded in the digital format of the tapes with the time referring to the hour, minute, second and hundredth of second.
When the subject did not respond coherently and Deputy Piazza could not determine if he was armed or not, he opened the driver's door to remove the subject from the vehicle when he noticed the butt of a large revolver under a small black bag on the floorboard directly below the driver's feet.
The deputy moved quickly into the open door and yelled “Gun! Gun!” to alert Deputy McNulty to the danger.
As shown in the tapes, Deputy Piazza attempted to handcuff the subject while Deputy McNulty reached in from the passenger side to grab the subject's right arm. The driver began to struggle and resist arrest.
The struggle turned very violent as shown on the surveillance tape when the driver pushed his head and body towards the floor board where the gun was seen by Deputy Piazza, wrenching his left arm from Deputy Piazza's grip, continuing to lunge toward the floorboard.
Page 2 of 3 - As the driver violently pushed against Deputy Piazza's face with his left arm and hand he pushed him away with his left leg. He had ripped his right arm from Deputy McNulty's grip and began to thrust his right hand toward the floorboard as shown on the surveillance tape.
After one shot into his left chest area, by Deputy Piazza, the driver continued to struggle, screaming at deputies and grabbing the steering wheel while revving the engine and rotating the steering wheel rapidly.
As Deputies attempted to grip the man's arms he lunged downward toward the floorboard while staring at Deputy Piazza.
Deputy Piazza discharged his weapon into the driver's left side chest area but the subject again lunged toward the floorboard while pushing the Deputy away with his left hand.
A third shot rendered the subject motionless, slumping back into his seat.
As shown on the tape, the Deputy then turned the engine off and threw the keys on the roof of the truck.
He removed the subject from the vehicle, handcuffed him on the ground beginning CPR while Deputy McNulty assisted.
A subsequent search of the truck interior revealed the fully loaded .357 magnum revolver partially under a black nylon bag that also had .357 magnum ammunition. A wallet with the victims identification was retrieved with $4,500 in cash inside. Nearly an ounce of suspected methamphetamine and smaller quantities of marijuana were also inside the truck along with a food sealer and a methamphetamine pipe. Receipts for parcel posts were found which lead investigators to a motel room in Chico where the subject had been staying.
Ramsey told the press that the revving engine posed a real threat to the deputies and patrons standing nearby because if Silaphanhdeth had engaged the transmission, there would have been grievous injuries to the deputies and possibly the casino patrons.
Investigators believe he was dealing substantial amounts of drugs from the motel room. They also recovered cell phone text messages and packaging which helped lead to this conclusion.
Ramsey explained that the “anonymous” patron to the casino turned out to be two subjects who had met Silaphanhdeth at the motel in Chico the previous night and Silaphanhdeth had offered to take them to the casino.
“On the way to the casino, the two men said Silaphanhdeth bragged he was an interstate dealer in drugs as well as a “boss” and “killer.” He showed them a ..357 caliber revolver and when one of the men complained that he was on probation and couldn't be caught around guns, Silaphangdeth said that 'he doesn't stop for cops,' and that he was a 'shooter,' the written letter to Sheriff Smith stated.
Silaphangdeth, at the time, was wanted by federal probation authorities for absconding from his federal parole in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The wanted teletype from those authorities noted he was “armed and dangerous” with “violent tendencies” and “known to abuse drugs.”
Page 3 of 3 - He had been sentenced in 2001 from South Dakota to a ten year term in federal prison for “Possession with the intent to distribute a controlled substance (Methamphetamine). He had served his time until January 2011 when he was released on federal probation in Sioux Falls. A warrant for his arrest was issued by federal magistrate in January 2013.
Ramsey told members of the press that the subject's federal probation report stated that he was a member of an Asian Crip gang and his moniker was “Sega.” He had a record before his federal arrest in 2001 for weapon offenses with one of those offenses in 1997 of having a Smith and Wesson .357 magnum revolver, the same model and type weapon he had with him during this incident on July 2, 2013.
Both Deputies have been cleared for duty.