Investigations into the fatal Oct. 20 shooting of a hospital patient by a Plumas County sheriff’s deputy could last several more weeks.
Two investigations — one headed by the Plumas County District Attorney’s office and the other by Butte County — are taking place simultaneously.
Although the deputy involved and witnesses to the shooting have been interviewed, District Attorney David Hollister said his office is still waiting for autopsy and toxicology reports. Hollister said he is also awaiting findings from crime scene experts.
“We have interviewed and re-interviewed everyone who was at the scene,” Hollister said. “But I don’t expect the investigation to be finished until December.”
The district attorney’s investigation — with assistance from the Department of Justice, the sheriff’s office and the California Highway Patrol — centers on the fatal shooting of 53-year-old Mariano Mauro.
Mauro, who was a patient at Eastern Plumas Health Care in Portola, was shot and killed during a violent struggle with a deputy.
The deputy, whose identity is officially being withheld until the investigation’s preliminary findings are reported, responded to a call from hospital staff at 12:48 a.m. Oct. 20.
According to the 911 call log, Mauro barricaded himself in his room and punched out a window. According to the log report, he threw some of the broken glass at a nurse.
The deputy arrived alone about 1 a.m. to find Mauro wearing “improvised protective outerwear” consisting of materials he found in his hospital room, according to Sheriff Greg Hagwood.
Hagwood said “a lengthy and incredibly violent” encounter ensued. He said the struggle between Mauro and the deputy started at one end of the hospital and ended up in the lobby, where the deputy fired multiple shots.
According to the sheriff, Mauro gained control of the officer’s Taser, gun and baton before the fatal shots were fired. Mauro fired a shot with the deputy’s gun “that narrowly missed the deputy.”
Mental health was called
Sources with knowledge of the events said a hospital staffer placed a call to the Plumas County Mental Health Department before Mauro became violent and the deputy was dispatched.
Mental health director Peter Livingston said he couldn’t “confirm or deny” the report or that Mauro was a mental health client. He cited Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act privacy rules.
“I know it is frustrating for everyone, including mental health,” Livingston said. “It is not as simple as everyone would like it to be.”
Livingston said mental health does provide on-call service after hours.
“The primary thing we provide after hours are 5150 (mental health) assessments,” Livingston said. “If a person is a danger to themselves or others, or gravely disabled as a result of mental illness, then we come out. Before we come out to do our evaluation, the person has to be medically evaluated to rule out medical causes.”
According to reports, a county mental health specialist didn’t arrive at the hospital before or after the shooting.
More deputies to be hired?
In the wake of the shooting, the county is expected to add at least three new deputies to the department in the coming months. The sheriff’s office is currently 10 deputies short of being fully staffed.
Supervisor Lori Simpson added an item to the supervisors’ Nov. 12 agenda authorizing the sheriff to fill three full-time deputy positions that are currently allocated. The county would appropriate $82,000 from the general fund contingency to help pay for it.
The agenda item requires approval from four of the five supervisors to pass.
Simpson said the sheriff didn’t ask for the additional deputies.
“I approached him,” Simpson said. “I know we need more deputies in the outlying areas. With all of our budget woes, the sheriff hasn’t asked for more deputies. But he needs them. And I think it’s time we help him out.”
Hagwood said he would probably be able to hire two of the deputies from a recent list of applicants that have completed the academy. He said it would take about three months before the deputies would be in the field.
“Any extra body is going to help,” Hagwood said.
Hagwood said the sheriff’s department would use unspent money from its budget to add to the county’s $82,000 to pay for new deputies.
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