Gunshots at DEF lead to arrest

Incident brings massive law-enforcement response

Gunshots at DEF  lead to arrestBy JAMES SIMMONS,

News Review Correspondent

A recently arrived resident of the RV Park at the Desert Empire Fairgrounds suddenly erupted with a barrage of gunfire last Thursday, Feb. 6, indiscriminately firing some 40 rounds from a rifle and as many as three handguns. Several adjacent RVs were hit, with the farthest away so far identified as Hockett’s Building Supply. There were no reported injuries during the four-hour event.

The Ridgecrest Police Depart-ment responded to calls about a possible case of gunfire at the RV Park, and went to perform a “welfare check” on a resident in the 500 block of South Richmond Road. They contacted 53-year old Ridgecrest businessman David Carl Park, determined he was uncooperative, had fired a weapon, was likely in some impaired state and refused to exit his travel trailer, said Ridgecrest Police Sergeant Jed McLaughlin.

Based on the situation and line of direct fire between the Fairgrounds and Gateway School, RV Park residents were evacuated by bus to the federal Bureau of Land Management building several blocks to the north, and the school was put under lockdown. Subsequent developments brought about the closure of the back gate to NAWS China Lake, and the lockdown during the lunch hour of Sherman E. Burroughs Jr. High School.

Ridgecrest PD, as is protocol in crisis management response, set up the initial Incident Command Center at the BLM building, with the county sheriff’s office assuming command upon the arrival of their Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team.

The substantial amount of gunfire and the proximity of potential shooting victims brought response assistance from other agencies and resources, including the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office (which set up a perimeter watch at Gateway School, along with Ernie Bell of the local school district); the California Highway Patrol; and the Kern County Sheriff’s Office and its SWAT team.

Following the evacuations and further attempted negotiation, more and more intense rounds of gunfire commenced, eventually leaving some 38 exit holes in the trailer, and confirmed hits on every adjacent RV and trailer, determined by a crime scene investigation process that lasted until 1:00 a.m. the next morning.

After hours of intensive contact and negotiation, police officers were finally able to persuade Park to exit his trailer and he was taken into custody unharmed around 1:30 p.m.

Park was booked at the Ridgecrest jail facility and charged with numerous felonies. These include attempted homicide of a peace officer, assault with a deadly weapon, shooting into an inhabited building, and threatening with intent to terrorize. Initial bail was set at $3.8 million.

William DeLong of Arizona was just awakening in his RV, just one vehicle away from the shooter’s. He immediately noticed members of the SWAT team cautiously creeping past his windows and went to step outside to see what was happening. He says “I was admonished vigorously to get back inside,” he said, and did so in order to advise his mother and son, also in the RV, to get dressed and prepare to be evacuated.

When questioned by the News Review as to his experiences of the day, DeLong instantly offered up praise for the professional conduct and tactical control displayed by responding police and SWAT team members. “They were awesome,” he said. “They ceded no ground, kept watchful for potential innocent passersby, and took and held their positions. You could tell their training really paid off.”

By 4:30 p.m., residents had been returned to their homes, and much of the law enforcement response had stood down.

Story First Published: 2014-02-12