The man suspected of shooting a three-year Humboldt County sheriff’s deputy in the left shoulder with a 12-gauge shotgun at a Ferndale dairy farm early Sunday morning was a Mexican national here illegally who was previously deported in 2015, according to Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal.
At a press conference Monday morning, Honsal said both the injured deputy, whose name is not being released at this time, and the suspect Hugo Parral-Aguirre, 30, are in stable condition and are no longer in the hospital. Hugo had three gunshot wounds after two deputies returned fire, Honsal said.
Honsal said the outcome was “very lucky” because the female deputy who was shot could have been killed if the shot had struck her a few inches away.
This is the second law enforcement officer who was shot this year in Humboldt County. Humboldt State University police officer Louis Altic was wounded by a gunshot on Sept. 9 at the Arcata Plaza by suspect Ervin Eugene Sweat Jr., who was killed when officers returned fire, according to previous information from the Arcata Police Department.
“It has become a very, very violent place and we see it out in the hills, we see it in our communities,” Honsal said Monday. “We are not immune to it because we wear a uniform. It’s very disturbing to me that, again, that this is a deputy sheriff who was there to investigate, to help people. And instead of someone giving up they decide to shoot it out with law enforcement.”
Sunday’s incident began shortly after midnight after a neighbor reported a dispute between two men on the 700 block of Coppini Lane in Ferndale, Honsal said. A deputy and a sheriff’s sergeant arrived on scene shortly before 12:50 a.m. in marked vehicles and approached a small barn-like structure on the property, according to Honsal. A woman then ran out of the door of the residence saying she had been held against her will by Parral-Aguirre, who was allegedly trespassing, Honsal said. Investigators later learned that Parral-Aguirre had allegedly attempted to shoot the woman’s boyfriend earlier that evening, according to Honsal.
Honsal said the boyfriend was uninjured and was at the scene. Honsal said the nature of the dispute between the boyfriend and Parral-Aguirre is still under investigation.
The woman also told deputies at the scene that Parral-Aguirre was armed, prompting both the deputy and sergeant to pull out their guns when they saw Parral-Aguirre in the barn, Honsal said. After both ordered Parral-Aguirre to drop his weapon, the suspect allegedly fired one round from a 12-gauge shotgun, striking the deputy in her left shoulder above her bullet-proof vest, according to Honsal. Both the deputy and sergeant returned fire while finding cover for both themselves and the woman at the scene, Honsal said. Parral-Aguirre was shot three times during the exchange of gunfire, Honsal said.
Officers from the Eureka, Arcata, Rio Dell, Ferndale, and Humboldt State University police departments along with the California Highway Patrol and California Department of Fish and Wildlife responded to the scene after the deputies requested aid. The injured deputy was taken to St. Joseph hospital by ambulance as the sheriff’s office SWAT team searched for Parral-Aguirre.
SWAT officers found Parral-Aguirre on a bed in the bottom floor of the residence at about 4 a.m.
Parral-Aguirre refused orders in both Spanish and English and resisted arrest when the SWAT team entered the residence, Honsal said.
Parral-Aguirre’s gunshot wounds were not life-threatening and he was booked in the jail after being treated at St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka, according to Honsal.
Honsal said Parral-Aguirre is suspected of felony attempted murder of a peace officer and false imprisonment charges. The Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office must file any criminal charges by Wednesday.
Parral-Aguirre was not employed at the dairy where the shooting took place and has family in the Ferndale area, Honsal said.
Parral-Aguirre had previously been arrested by the sheriff’s office on suspicion of battery in 2008, and had been transferred to a federal prison for entering the country illegally before voluntarily returning to Mexico, according to Honsal.
Honsal said Parral-Aguirre had also been deported by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency in 2015, but Honsal did not have information on when he had returned to the U.S.
Honsal said state law would prevent his office from honoring a request by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold Parral-Aguirre, stating that it will be up to the agency to file a warrant to arrest him on suspicion of illegal immigration.
“Once there is a holding order by the superior court for these felony charges, he is eligible to be turned over to ICE at that time,” Honsal said. “But we’re not focused on that. We’re focused on our criminal charges here and proving those criminal charges in our county.”
Whether Parral-Aguirre was under the influence or experiencing a mental health crisis is still under investigation, Honsal said.
“I don’t believe someone is in their right mind if they shoot at a deputy sheriff, but you never know the motive,” Honsal said. “You never know the motive. People do not like the fact that we wear the uniform and that just could be the motive.”
All deputies involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave, with Honsal saying that he will release their names later this week.
“My deputies did an outstanding job,” Honsal said. “Number one, protecting the female and protecting themselves. They reacted exactly like they were supposed to do, exactly as they were trained to do. … I think they displayed considerable courage through this whole incident. I’m very happy, very thankful that a deputy didn’t get killed over this.”
The county’s ALERT mass notification system was used to alert residents in the area about the ongoing investigation, Honsal said. First District Humboldt County Supervisor Rex Bohn praised the use of the alert system considering that the incident temporarily disrupted nearby dairy operations that were about to start milking cows that morning.
“I’ve got phone calls this morning very appreciative you guys did that,” Bohn said.
Will Houston can be reached at 707-441-0504.