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Deputies scuffle with red-bearded burglar

September 8, 2021 —  Sheriff’s deputies had a second close encounter early Monday morning with the red bearded burglar who is suspected of breaking into a string of remote cabins on the coast. The encounter was so close, according to Sheriff Matt Kendall, that a K9 handler had his hands on the suspect before he escaped again.

Kendall said deputies cornered the suspect, believed to be forty-year-old William Evers, in a cabin on Navarro Ridge early on September sixth. At about 4:30 in the morning, Kendall reported, Evers “came squirting out the door,” and the deputy grabbed him. A scuffle between the two men and the dog ensued, and the dog accidentally bit its handler, whereupon Evers escaped. He was last seen running toward the Salmon Creek drainage. 

Kendall added that a SWAT team member who was also injured during the attempted capture put some ice on his knee and both deputies are back at work.

Evers is wanted for burglaries, but also for shooting at a deputy on the night of May 12, when a patrol deputy interrupted him burglarizing a residence in Elk. Evers ran, the deputy chased him, and Evers fired on him with a handgun. The deputy fired back, but no one was injured. Evers is also suspected of stealing a rifle in February.

Evers is considered armed and dangerous.

An injured deputy right now would be a serious blow to the sheriff’s office, which is down to 23 patrol deputies. That’s significantly less than the 40 working patrol deputies the department would have at full staffing, and doesn’t count the sergeants and lieutenants. The sheriff’s office has 96 employees, including bailiffs, part time workers, and jail personnel.  

Late last month, Captain Gregory van Patten wrote a letter to the board saying that, due to the staffing shortage and the pandemic, the sheriff’s office is “going to be forced to reduce some services to ensure that we have the ability to provide public safety...the Sheriff’s Office will not be responding to Mental Health related calls for service unless there is an immediate life-threatening situation to the public.” The sheriff’s office will only respond to non-threatening mental health situations if it is a dual response, which includes a deputy and a mental health professional.

At last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Dr. Jenine Miller, who heads up the county’s Behavioral Health department, asked the board for a million dollars for more mental health crisis responders.

She said her department needs to purchase caged vehicles and phones with signal boosters and bluetooth for staff in remote locations. She plans to contract the work with Redwood Community Services. Her office has also applied for a variety of grants for mobile crisis response. “We’ll also be looking at additional funding sources that may or may not crop up,” she assured the board; “but at this time, this is not something within Behavioral Health’s budget.”

Supervisor John Haschak asked Miller how she plans  to fill the positions, pointing out that the board has already approved three positions for a MOPS (mobile outreach and prevention) program. “How can we staff these new positions if we can’t staff the ones we’ve already said we wanted to staff?” Miller told him she was stepping up recruitment efforts and opening up the job to another classification.

Supervisor Ted Williams asked Kendall what he thought about a suggestion for swelling the ranks of local law enforcement. “If this is an innovative approach of using a different tool, then I’m in favor of it,” he said; “but if this is because we don’t have adequate staffing and we can’t find people to hire, it strikes me that we should ask the state for mutual aid.” Kendall said there’s no funding for mutual aid this year and that all available mutual aid is being sent to fires across the state. And many counties are in the same position as Mendocino: “Most police agencies have a large vacancy rate right now,” he said. “Huge vacancy rate. Some of them are running into the mid fifty percentages.” He attributed this to the fact that the police academy should have graduated two classes since the onset of covid, but, because the academy has been closed, retiring cops aren’t being replaced with new graduates. In another sign of how larger events hit close to home, two bailiffs and a dispatcher are in Plumas County, offering mutual aid to the fire response there. 

 The board approved Dr. Miller’s request for a million dollars for more crisis workers, and added a direction to staff to work with the sheriff’s office to request mutual aid “in regard to the low staffing level during a declared emergency.”



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