ER Man leveled shotgun at deputy
by Heather Muller , 10/5/2007
An autopsy will be conducted today on the body of Eloy Infante-Toscano, the 40-year-old native of Mexico who was shot and killed Wednesday by a deputy from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office.
At a news conference held Thursday, Sheriff Gary Philp described the surprise encounter that led to the man’s death near a marijuana grow on Pacific Lumber Co. property in Southern Humboldt.
Philp said two deputies and an evidence technician were called to the remote location, approximately 13 miles from Redcrest, by a PALCO security employee. While the evidence tech and security guard waited at a trailhead, the deputies split up and began hiking toward the reported pot grow.
One followed a water line, Philp said, and the other walked along a narrow trail.
At some point, the deputy on the trail observed a man “in plain view” also on the trail walking toward him, roughly 15 yards away, the sheriff said.
The unnamed deputy then identified himself as a law enforcement officer, Philp said, and “the response he got was the suspect raising the shotgun his direction.”
Infante-Toscano did not shoot, but the deputy did — “more than a few (rounds), but we don’t have an exact count,” Philp said, adding that investigators later determined that the shotgun was loaded.
Philp said emergency medical services were immediately called to the scene, but, because of the remote location, took an hour or more to arrive.
Humboldt County Deputy Coroner Roy Horton said Infante-Toscano previously lived in the Modesto area and his parents live in Mexico, adding that he did not know the man’s immigration status.
The Mexican Embassy would notify Infante-Toscano’s family, Horton said, and the autopsy would be conducted in Sonoma County.
Philp did not say whether the marijuana grow was believed to be related to Mexican national drug-trafficking organizations, whose increased presence in Northern California forests has resulted in record-breaking pot busts, along with repeated warnings of danger to hunters and hikers.
Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Brenda Godsey said investigators were still at the scene Thursday and many details remained unknown.
Philp noted that it was “unusual” to encounter armed suspects during marijuana interdiction efforts because deputies typically make every attempt to announce their presence so showdowns like this one do not occur.
When asked if deputies announced themselves in this case, Philp replied, “I don’t have exact details, but I’m informed that they did.”
Godsey called the incident “another grim reminder of the dangers our law enforcement officers face.”
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