During a late-night press conference, Sacramento’s police chief described a harrowing attack on his force that led to the death of Tara O’Sullivan, the first city of Sacramento officer to perish in the line of duty in two decades.
“The officers were essentially ambushed by the suspect,” Police Chief Daniel Hahn said on Friday night. “This was an ambush-style attack on Sacramento police officers that lasted for hours.”
Watch the full update from Sacramento Police on the death of Officer Tara O'Sullivan
The chief described how, after responding to a domestic disturbance in north Sacramento on Wednesday evening, O’Sullivan and a fellow officer were taken by surprise by suspect Adel Sambrano Ramos, who the department says was armed with illegal assault rifles and other firearms.
Ramos “continued to fire at officers for over four hours,” according to Hahn, after first targeting O’Sullivan and her partner just after 6:10 p.m. on Wednesday.
“He typically shot rounds at officers any time he observed movement,” Hahn said.
A team of police embarked on a dangerous rescue operation to recover O’Sullivan during the tense moments after the shooting, which included using a “BearCat” armored vehicle to protect themselves from rounds fired by an illegal AR-15 style assault rifle.
He is accused of “lying in wait” and “intentionally” killing O’Sullivan, and also of attempting to kill a second police officer.
The following is an overview of the press conference held at Sacramento police headquarters on Friday evening:
- The conference begins with Sgt. Vance Chandler showing video from a body-worn camera from the incident. It shows an officer, Daniel Chipp, approaching a garage with his handgun drawn. As the Chipp opens a door, gunshots rain down from behind. Chipp runs for safety, takes cover, and relays a message over their radio: “Officer down!”
- Not only were two illegally altered, AR-15-style, .223 caliber assault weapons found on the scene, but so too were a shotgun and a handgun, and “numerous rounds of ammunition,” according to Hahn. Chandler says Ramos used all of the weapons at one time or another during 30 different attempts to kill officers.
- Chandler says O’Sullivan and Chipp were attempting to gain entry into a garage behind the home as part of resolving a domestic disturbance. The woman they were trying to assist requested help in picking up some personal items. “We do know the primary officer [Daniel Chipp] made contact at the door. Tara was behind the officer when she was shot and struck by gunfire,” Chandler said. The gunfire came from the main residence.
- Chandler says O’Sullivan was struck multiple times. A CHP officer, who is also a nurse with combat medic training, rendered first aid as she was transported by the nearest available vehicle, which was a patrol car. Chandler says one of the wounds was “unsurvivable” and praised the lifesaving efforts. “We’re very thankful for that CHP officer,” Chandler said.
- Three other officers were also on site as requested once Chipp and O’Sullivan found the main residence had been barricaded and then located firearms in a second home next door that shared a yard.
- Officers fired at least 100 rounds in return during the standoff. Investigators have not been able to tally all of the shots allegedly fired by Ramos.
- An armored vehicle called a “BearCat” was used by officers to break through the back fence of Ramos’ home. Chandler says officers had to leave the BearCat to reach O’Sullivan. “Within close proximity of Tara, one officer exited the BearCat and returned fire at the suspect as multiple other officers rescued Tara. At that point, they placed her in the armored vehicle as the suspect continued to fire,” Chandler said.
- As officers attempted to leave, the BearCat became disabled. “That’s when multiple officers carried Tara out of the area to a patrol vehicle and transported her to a hospital,” Chandler said.
- Hahn says Ramos wanted to murder additional officers: “It was clear by the suspect’s actions that he was intent on murdering additional officers, and was taking action to do just that, repeatedly shooting at officers throughout much of this incident.”
- The chief says that, if the officers did not use the BearCat armored vehicle, he “truly believes” that there would have been “additional officers murdered.”
- Armored vehicles from other agencies assisted in the evacuation of neighbors. “We had agencies from our entire region that responded and willingly went in there knowing these circumstances of a suspect firing at all officers on scene,” Chandler said.
- “All of these officers acted heroically. I can’t speak enough about how they acted during this incident, under extreme conditions, knowing that the suspect was firing with a rifle,” Chandler said of the officers who rescued O’Sullivan and fended off the shooter.
- Chandler said the suspect and the woman officers were trying to help “...did know each other. We know that they had some sort of relationship. They had some sort of incident prior to this evening and that’s why we got the initial call."