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Man who killed Mendocino County deputy died from gunfire, not suicide

The gunman who fatally shot a Mendocino County sheriff's deputy Wednesday north of Fort Bragg, Calif.,  did not take his own life after the crime spree that began in Oregon but was instead mortally wounded when a police officer opened fire during the ensuing manhunt.

Officials initially said they believed the suspected gunman, 32-year-old Ricardo Antonio Chaney of Eugene, Ore., committed suicide after a gun battle with a Fort Bragg police lieutenant. 

But later in the evening, Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman told reporters that the investigation showed that Chaney was instead killed "when Lt. (John) Naulty fired at him," according to the Press Democrat.

The sheriff's deputy who died was 26-year law enforcement veteran Ricky Del Fiorentino, 48, of Fort Bragg.

Chaney's crime spree began with an armed robbery Wednesday in Eugene when he stole a BMW and forced its occupants into the trunk, the Press Democrat reported. The hostages somehow later escaped or were freed, authorities said.

Chaney later exchanged gunfire with the manager of Confusion Hill, a tourist attraction north of Leggett, at around 10:30 a.m. Manager John Mills told KPIX-5 that Chaney returned with a sawed-off shotgun after being told to stop urinating in public.

Chaney allegedly fired off a couple of shots before Mills said he fired back with pistol, seemingly to no avail. Mills was treated for what were described as lead pellets that had ricocheted and struck him.

Chaney fled and was spotted on Highway 1 about an hour later and led authorities on a car chase that at times reached over 100 mph. Chaney was able to outrun them and a manhunt involving various agencies continued, according to the Press Democrat.

Allman said Chaney opened fire with some type of assault rifle when Del Fiorentino came upon the stolen vehicle on a dirt road in Cleone.

Naulty, a Fort Bragg police lieutenant, heard the gunfire, followed the sound and arrived to find Chaney scavenging through Del Fiorentino's car.

After exchanging gunfire, Naulty found Chaney dead in the bushes.

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ari.bloomekatz@latimes.com

Twitter: @aribloomekatz

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