The officer who fatally shot a fleeing bank robbery suspect in Folsom on Tuesday night was a deputy with the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department, authorities confirmed today.
The deputy got involved in the 20-minute, mile-long foot pursuit following the robbery because he was near the area and heard requests for assistance from Folsom police, said Sgt. Jason Browning, spokesman for the Folsom Police Department.
A Sacramento police officer also joined in the pursuit before injuring his leg and heading to the hospital, Browning said.
Employees at a Wells Fargo bank on E. Bidwell Street, near Blue Ravine Road, reported the robbery shortly after 5 p.m. The suspect did not use a weapon; however, witnesses apparently thought he was armed, Browning said.
"We were told by the bank after the robbery that he was armed with a rifle," he said. "We don't know why they thought he had a rifle."
Another witness told police that the suspect was carrying a backpack that looked like a rifle bag, Browning said.
After the suspect ran from the bank, an off-duty Folsom police officer who was driving through a nearby residential neighborhood - listening to the robbery call on a police radio in his personal car - thought he spotted the suspect and flagged down another officer.
Officers pursued the suspect on foot through the neighborhood, over fences and even on the roof of a nearby Target, Browning said. Eventually, the suspect ran through a home in the 1300 block of School Street, where three children and their parents were inside, Browning said.
Pursuing officers heard the family's screams as the came up to the house, Browning said. The suspect came out the front door, then turned and ran back inside. The sheriff's deputy followed, saw the suspect trying to get into a locked bedroom where the family was hiding, then saw the suspect trying to get into another bedroom, Browning said.
Thinking the suspect was possibly armed and fearing for the safety of the family inside, the sheriff's deputy fired at the suspect, striking him in the back, Browning said. The suspect was pronounced dead at the scene.
The man was later found not to be armed, and police so far have not recovered a weapon from his flight, Browning said. He added that police are still investigating the incident.
"It's complicated. It's probably a mile-long crime scene that encompasses a roof and everything else," Browning said. "It could be a long time before all the pieces are put together."
The Sacramento County Coroner's office has not yet identified the name of the man.
It was the 12th officer-involved shooting for the Sheriff's Department so far in 2012; the eighth fatal one.