A Sonoma County Sheriff’s deputy was shot Sunday morning during a confrontation with an armed employee of the Union 76 station on Highway 12 in Sonoma.
The unidentified deputy, working as a motorcycle police officer for the city of Sonoma, suffered nonfatal wounds and was taken by helicopter to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, where he was treated and later released.
“His wounds were not life-threatening. He’s out of the hospital and doing well,” said Sgt. Spencer Crum, Public Information Officer for the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies arrested Ryan Pritel, 20, of Sonoma. He was taken to the Sonoma County jail and charged with attempted murder and possession of a loaded firearm in public. According to Crum, Pritel has no previous felony record. Bail was set at $1 million.
The incident unfolded shortly before 11 a.m. on Mother’s Day, when Pritel, an employee of the 76 station at the corner of Highway 12 and Ramon Street, showed up unscheduled and began acting erratically. The manager told Pritel to go home, but he refused, joining the queue of workers outside the Jolly Washer carwash instead.
When deputies arrived they interviewed the manager, who reported Pritel was still outside and armed with what appeared to be a BB gun.
“They see the suspect…kind of hunkered down behind one of the cars, kind of acting strange,” described Sonoma Police Chief Brett Sackett said.
When approached, Pritel drew a 9mm semiautomatic handgun and fired at one of the deputies, hitting him in the chest, hand and left eye. Officers returned fire “at least twice,” according to Sackett, at which point Pritel, whose gun may have malfunctioned, surrendered his weapon and was taken into custody. The weapon was recovered along with a 20-round magazine.
The injured deputy was hit by a round of “snake shot,” a bullet whose projectile is made of small pellets. He was observed sitting upright and talking on a cell phone as paramedics loaded him into an ambulance.
“He was a tough-looking guy,” said onlooker Andrew Habis, 13, who was visiting from Lafayette for a Mother’s Day celebration.
“Thank God it was snake shot,” said Patrick Hurley, one of the many people who gathered on the sidewalk beyond the yellow police tape in the immediate aftermath of the incident.
A gray Chevy Silverado waiting in line for the carwash suffered collateral damage, its rear window punctured by gunfire. The truck’s occupant, a middle-aged man in blue jeans and a ball cap, had hunkered down in the truck’s foot well, and was unharmed but was showered with glass fragments.
The injured deputy was transported by ambulance to Maxwell Park, where he was met by Henry-1, the helicopter unit based in Santa Rosa.
As of Monday morning, the 76 station remained closed. The Sheriff’s Office has asked the Santa Rosa Police Department to review the incident in accordance with a countywide protocol for officer involved shootings.
“The critical incident team is involved with all officer-involved shootings,” Crum said, adding that in his 28 years of service, there had never been one in Sonoma. “I’ve never heard ‘shots fired, officer injury’ come over the radio. It’s a punch in the gut.”
Pritel, who grew up in Sonoma and attended Woodland Star Charter School and Sonoma Valley Academy, remains in custody awaiting arraignment.