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By KATY HILLENMEYER, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
December 25, 2007
Father: Shootout suspect suicidal
A Healdsburg man accused of shooting a bystander outside his Windsor home Sunday before engaging three deputies in a shootout had threatened suicide and was taking an antidepressant, his father said Monday.
Despondent over trouble finding work and paying his bills, 22-year-old David James Stafford “was very depressed and on medication for it,” said his father, James Stafford.
“The medication may have precipitated this event,” the Healdsburg father said. “I’d never seen him this way before.”
Stafford is accused of firing three rounds from a 9 mm pistol toward the deputies Sunday as they responded to a single-vehicle hit-and-run accident at Starr and Windsor River roads, followed by gunshots heard in the Buckingham Drive vicinity, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department reported.
Investigators would later link those shots to injuries suffered by a 21-year-old Windsor man who was fired on at least twice while sitting inside his parked vehicle outside his home Sunday morning.
The sheriff’s department declined again Monday to release the bystander’s name, citing safety concerns stemming from Stafford’s self-reported ties to a subset of the norteño street gang.
“This is a person who has a criminal history that includes some violence, so there could be a gang component to this,” sheriff’s Capt. Dave Edmonds said. “Those are things we have to continue to assess.”
The suspect’s confrontation with a Windsor deputy and two sheriff’s deputies began just after they arrived on the scene at 5:14 a.m. Sunday.
Investigating in the area of Buckingham Drive and Starr Road, the deputies saw the suspect in the roadway, where he pointed a handgun at them, according to the sheriff’s department.
Seeing a flash from the 9 mm pistol as it was pointed toward one deputy, another deputy fired on Stafford, Edmonds reported. The suspect shot three rounds at the deputies, and all three officers returned fire, according to the sheriff’s department.
The suspect fled north on Windsor River Road, where a neighbor saw him drop to a knee and reload the pistol with a fresh magazine, Edmonds said.
Though the suspect was hit at least once, the pursuit continued on Starr Road until deputies delivered incapacitating gunshot wounds to Stafford, causing him to take cover behind a large oak tree.
“The deputies drove into a huge mess, and it was highly volatile and it looks like they performed admirably out there,” Edmonds said.
With the help of a police dog, Stafford was detained Sunday and given emergency first aid until an ambulance responded. He was then treated at a local hospital for four gunshot wounds to the chest, face, buttocks and upper arm that were not life-threatening, Edmonds reported.
Stafford remained hospitalized Monday, and his booking in Sonoma County Jail on suspicion of four counts of attempted murder was pending.
Investigators confirmed he had made suicide threats in recent days, and that he had a large bottle of whiskey in his possession at the time he was taken into custody. It was unknown if he was drinking Sunday morning, however, the sheriff’s department reported.
You can reach Staff Writer Katy Hillenmeyer at 521-5274 or katy.hillenmeyer@pressdemo