A Santa Rosa police officer has been placed on administrative leave after shooting at a man who authorities say aimed an umbrella at passing vehicles and the lawman over the weekend while pretending it was a rifle.
Officials detailed the shooting in an update released Tuesday. Police received phone calls around 12:35 p.m. Saturday reporting that a man was carrying what was believed to be a rifle and pointing it at drivers on Guerneville Road in Sonoma County. Police later identified the suspect as Joshua Oceguera.
Officer Stephen Darden arrived roughly seven minutes later. From 90 to 100 yards away — roughly the length of a football field — Darden saw Oceguera point what he also believed was a rifle at passing cars, making a recoiling motion while doing so.
Darden exited his police vehicle with a rifle and, over a public address system, told Oceguera to show his hands. Oceguera turned toward the officer and pointed the long, dark object at him.
The officer then fired three rounds at Oceguera. After moving into a different position, however, Darden saw the object was not a rifle but a long black umbrella.
A second officer arrived on the scene at 12:44 p.m. and helped Darden tackle Oceguera, who was not struck by police gunfire. The two officers placed him in handcuffs and took him into custody.
Oceguera, 24, was booked into Sonoma County Jail on charges of criminal threats, brandishing and assault. According to court records, he was released Tuesday.
Santa Rosa Police Lt. Dan Marincik said that Santa Rosa police had had previous encounters with Oceguera related to mental health issues. He could not release the specifics of those instances.
Darden has since been placed on administrative leave, per protocol involving officer-involved shootings. Santa Rosa detectives are investigating.
“He has been a police officer with the Santa Rosa Police Department for just under one year,” Marincik said in a statement.
According to Santa Rosa police, Oceguera said after the shooting that “he had made noises while pointing the umbrella that simulated the sound of a firearm being fired.” Several witnesses told detectives they thought Oceguera was holding a firearm.
Darden did not capture the shooting on his body camera. The arrest that followed was recorded by the second-responding officer. It’s unclear why the first events were not videotaped.