Deceased Man Identified as Jacob Newmaker
An early-morning phone call about a disturbance of the peace led to an altercation with police and the ultimate demise of a young Fortuna man today.
Jacob Robert Newmaker, 26, was pronounced dead at Redwood Memorial Hospital after he was transported there to be treated for a gunshot wound at the hands of an unnamed Fortuna Police Department officer.
It all started at about 6:10 a.m. when the FPD responded to the 1100 block of Angel Heights Drive on a call involving a male suspect who was allegedly under the influence and banging on the reporting persons’ door and windows.
Upon responding, the cops were told that the subject had left the area on bicycle, and law enforcement caught up to the man in the area of Vista Drive and 11th Street.
At first attempting to flee, the man supposedly became physically combative with the responding officer, who unsuccessfully tried to subdue him with a taser, according to a press statement by chief Bill Dobberstein.
The FPD side of the story concludes with the arrival of a second unit, who allegedly witnessed the subject continue to be physically combative.
Verbal commands, control holds, pepper spray and baton strikes were all used, but were apparently ineffective, and in a violent struggle the subject grabbed one of the cops’ batons.
When the subject was about to strike the officer with his own nightstick, the other cop fired his gun at the man, later identified as Newmaker.
Life saving measures were attempted and the subject succumbed to his injuries a short while later at the hospital.
Humboldt County’s Critical Incident Response Team was activated and an investigation is underway with assistance from FPD, the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office, Humboldt County Sherriff’s Office, Eureka Police Department and Arcata Police Department. Further assistance was provided by the Rio Dell Police Department, Cal Fire and Fortuna Volunteer Fire Department.
UPDATE April 17:
The Fortuna Police Department on Monday released the names of the two officers involved in a fatal shooting last month and said both have returned to work after administrative staff deemed their actions were appropriate under the circumstances.
According to a Fortuna Police Department press release, Officer Maxwell Soeth and Sgt. Charles Ellebrecht attempted to subdue Jacob Robert Newmaker on March 16 with verbal commands, pepper spray, baton strikes, control holds and a Taser, all of which were unsuccessful.
Ultimately, an officer fatally shot Newmaker after he took one of the officers’ batons and began striking him with it, according to the department.
In a previous interview, Dobberstein said officers were dispatched to the Angel Heights Drive neighborhood at 6:16 a.m. on March 16 after a woman reported a “crazed person banging on the door and yelling and screaming in her front yard.”
Responding officers were told the suspect had left the area on a bicycle and were given a description of Newmaker, who Dobberstein said had numerous prior contacts with his department for drug and theft offenses.
Dobberstein said an officer coming down from Angel Heights Drive spotted Newmaker on his bicycle at the foot of Vista Drive — about three-quarters of a mile from the residence where the 911 call originated.
Dobberstein said Newmaker crashed his bicycle on 10th Street just below O Street, and the officer confronted him on the sidewalk. An altercation ensued, the chief said, and the officer then “drive-stunned” Newmaker with his Taser, meaning he attempted to put it in direct contact with the suspect to shock him.
Dobberstein said the officer was able to catch up with Newmaker in the middle of O Street — between 10th and 11th streets — and again used his Taser, this time fully deploying it, shooting the darts at Newmaker.
The chief said it’s unclear if the Taser was fully effective, but said Newmaker fell to the ground after being hit.
”It was when he was on the ground when the other officer arrived,” Dobberstein said in the previous interview.
Dobberstein said the officers then tried to get Newmaker into handcuffs, using pepper spray and baton strikes to the legs to try to gain compliance.
Efforts to subdue Newmaker were unsuccessful.
The second officer on scene — who Dobberstein said somehow “took a face-full of pepper spray at some point during the incident” — was able to get one of Newmaker’s hands into cuffs, but the suspect’s other hand remained free and he was able to get into a “fighting position on the ground.”
At this point, Dobberstein said, the initial officer on scene attempted to use his baton to gain control of Newmaker’s uncuffed hand, but the suspect was able to grab the weapon.
”Then, there was a tug-of-war for the baton, and he was able to wrestle it free,”
Dobberstein said. “It was at that point he was able to get the baton and was able to get back up to his feet.”
Newmaker then raised the baton to strike the second officer on scene, Dobberstein said, at which point the other officer shot twice, hitting Newmaker both times.
Newmaker was pronounced dead at Redwood Memorial Hospital later that morning.