CHP officer pronounced dead after shooting
MARTINEZ, Calif. (AP) - Authorities struggled to understand what prompted a computer programmer with no violent criminal record to shoot a California Highway Patrol officer during a traffic stop, an encounter that resulted in the officer’s death Wednesday.
Officer Kenyon Youngstrom, 37, was pronounced dead at the Walnut Creek hospital where he had been on life support since he was struck in the neck and his spinal cord was severed Tuesday morning, Officer Peter van Eckhardt said. A married father of four who lived in Cordelia, Youngstrom had worked for the CHP for seven years.
CHP Capt. Jonnie Fenner told reporters that losing him in the line of duty was unimaginably difficult for his colleagues. “We are remembering Kenyon in all the ways we possibly can,” she said. “I want you to know that he absolutely loved his job.”
Youngstrom’s suspected assailant, Christopher Boone Lacy, 36, was shot at the scene and killed by Youngstrom’s partner, who saw his fellow officer go down, Contra Costa County sheriff’s spokesman Jimmy Lee said.
Video from a CHP dashboard camera showed Youngstrom speaking with Lacy for about 30 or 40 seconds when Lacy pulled out a gun and opened fire without provocation, Lee said at a news conference.
The second officer, whose name has not been released, apparently initiated the stop from a separate patrol car on Interstate 680 near Alamo, flagging Lacy for suspicion of driving with an obstructed license plate, Lee said.
Youngstrom was already on the shoulder handling a dead deer when his partner notified him that he was pulling over a Jeep Wrangler. Youngstrom directed the driver where to stop and approached the Jeep, Lee said.
A motive for the shooting remains unknown as investigators are still trying to develop a profile of Lacy, Lee said. Investigators found a loaded semi-automatic handgun, two ammunition magazines and a knife in the Jeep, he said. Lacy had a drunken driving arrest in Marin County in 2006, Lee added, but beyond that, no criminal record.
“We’ve been told he pretty much keeps to himself. He’s a loner,” Lee said.
A team of investigators late Tuesday served a search warrant at Lacy’s mobile home in Corning, a rural community 158 miles north of the fatal traffic stop, and seized six computers and several hard drives, Lee said.
Neighbor Howard Braden, 64, said he spent nearly an hour speaking with investigators, describing Lacy as smart and easygoing. He said Lacy had told him he had found short-term programming work in the Bay Area. Braden said he last saw him going jogging Monday.
“There were no red flags,” he said. “No one knew he had any guns or weapons.” Braden said his neighbor had worked on his computer as a favor. “He must have snapped,” he said.
Investigators also talked to Lacy’s parents, who live in Oregon are expected to come to the area for questioning, Lee added.
Gov. Jerry Brown said flags at the capitol will be lowered in Youngstrom’s honor. Youngstrom’s name will be enscribed on a memorial fountain honoring fallen officers, CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow said.
Youngstrom’s death brought an outpouring of support for his family, some of whom came up from Southern California to be at his bedside. Dozens of his fellow officers and law enforcement colleagues remained at the hospital nonstop, while residents held a vigil in his honor at a park near his home Wednesday night.
A neighbor, Ryan Patchen, told the San Francisco Chronicle that Youngstrom was devoted to his family and job.
“You know it’s a risk, but you don’t expect it to happen, especially something so close to home,” said Patchen, 22. “I feel awful for his family, what they must be going through.”