A rookie Sacramento police officer died during a domestic violence call - ambushed by a gunman and had no chance of surviving after she was shot. The disclosure came amid criticism that it took police 45 minutes to get to 26-year-old rookie Officer Tara O'Sullivan during the armed standoff. O'Sullivan was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
O'Sullivan was hit several times. The wounds were "non-survivable," Sgt. Vance Chandler said at a news conference where the department released police body camera video of the Wednesday night attack. The body cam video is clear that Officer O’Sullivan was shot at numerous times by a high-powered rifle. Rounds heard in excess of 20 plus by the suspect.
This incident was a grim reminder of the horrors of being a police officer. Many of you may remember a similar incident we had within our own agency in the town of Minkler, February 25, 2010. On this day a gunman, Rick Lyles, opened fire with a high powered rifle through the door of his mobile home. Those gunshots struck Deputy Joel Wahlenmaier – fatally wounding him at the scene. Amid more gunfire, deputies came up with a plan and were able to get Wahlenmaier out of the scene. Deputy Wahlenmaier was loaded into an ambulance, transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced deceased.
Deputy Sheriff Erik Telen was killed August 21, 2001 – ambushed in the area above Squaw Valley during a suspicious person call. Deputy Telen and Deputy Stalker were ambushed while clearing a house on Old Oak Road, in an attempt to render the house safe from any potential intruders/trespassers. Deputy Telen was shot and killed by the suspect. Deputy Telen was fatality wounded, and his body lay in the kitchen threshold leading into the living room where the suspect was barricaded. Deputies came up with a plan, acted and were able to get Deputy Telen out of the house without anyone else being shot or killed. This all took about the same amount of time as it did to get Officer Sullivan out of the scene and to a hospital.
Numerous rounds were fired by officers and suspects at all three of the above described scenes, along with an effort to get our wounded officers out of the scene that immobilized them. During these types of incidents, the goals are simple. Get the officers out, without anyone else (officers) being shot or killed.
Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn said the gunman had stashed two assault rifles, a shotgun and handgun in different rooms and opened fire as officers knocked on the door. "The officers were essentially ambushed," Hahn said. He said patrol car doors and protective vests couldn't stop the high-powered rifle rounds, and if officers had tried to rescue their fallen colleague before an armored vehicle arrived, "we would have additional officers murdered."
Police said the gunman opened fire as O'Sullivan and other officers helped an unidentified woman clear out her belongings from the garage of a North Sacramento home. "Under the most dangerous and trying circumstances, our officers performed admirably," the chief said.
The fate of Officer O’Sullivan was determined that day – simply due to a plan by the suspect. A plan Officer O’Sullivan did not know, and could not have predicted. Same was true with Deputy Telen and Deputy Wahlenmaier. These are the types of incidents where officers are killed throughout our country and state due to suspects’ having a plan to kill a police officer. Earlier this year, David PD officer Natalie Corona was fatally shot and killed while investigating a traffic accident. The accident was unrelated to the gunman. However, he had a plan – to kill a cop.
Suspect Adel Sambrano Ramos, 45, was charged with murder, attempted murder and possessing two illegal assault rifles. O'Sullivan was standing behind her training officer, Daniel Chipp, when she was struck, police said.
Footage from Chipp's body camera showed him approaching a detached garage with his gun drawn, knocking and calling out: "Hey, Adel, Police Department... You're not under arrest, you're not in trouble."
The officer then opens a screen door and begins to cautiously enter the open doorway, asking Adel if he is inside and repeating: "You're not in trouble, dude." At that moment, more than 20 rapid shots are heard. The officer runs for cover and radios that a high-powered rifle is being fired. "Officer down! Officer down!" he says.
Police said the gunman had opened fire from a house behind the officers and barricaded the front door. The charges against Ramos carry special circumstances, including that he killed O'Sullivan while lying in wait, an allegation that would allow authorities to seek the death penalty.
Police said the gunman strategically shot at officers for hours, using all the weapons kept in different rooms. He surrendered after an eight-hour standoff.
Nine days before the officer's killing, a judge issued a warrant for the arrest of Ramos for failing to appear on a charge of battering a young woman. No indication was made that Ramos would react the way he did.
The officers of the Sacramento Police Department are grieving the death of their officer. They have not lost an officer in the line of duty since Feb 9, 1999. The last thing the officers at the scene need to hear is they waited too long to get their officer out causing her to die. I feel it is admiral by Sacramento Police Chief Hahn to address this with the media – putting rumors to bed that Officer O’Sullivan had survivable injuries.
The stress that will come from this Line of Duty Death is bad enough and will never be over for the officers on scene. To have them questioned as to their tactics at the scene by the media and law enforcement naysayers is wrong.
I pray for all those involved in this horrific event and that we can lend support to the officer’s family, co-workers, and agency. We are all in this together.
Please stay safe out there and protect one another.