Officer Down: Detective Kent Haws
Officer Down: Detective Kent Haws - [Tulare, California]
Additional Information: Detective Haws had served with the agency for 10 years. He is survived by his wife and three young children.
Calif. officer fatally shot checking suspicious vehicleBy Time Sheehan and Erik Lacayo
The Fresno Bee
IVANHOE, Calif. — A Tulare County sheriff's detective died at the hands of a shooter on a rural road Monday — the agency's first death by gunfire in more than half a century. Late Monday, an Ivanhoe man was booked on suspicion of homicide.
Kent Haws, 38, was married with three young children.
Tulare County Sheriff Bill Wittman broke the news outside Kaweah Delta Hospital in Visalia. "We just lost an officer," a shaken Wittman said, wiping tears from his face.
The suspect, Jorge Gomez Banda, 20, is being held with no bail in the Tulare County Main Jail facility.
Haws survived many scrapes in his 10-year career, serving on the search-and-rescue team, emerging from a rollover with a broken collarbone and shooting a man apparently intent on running him over.
About 1:30 p.m. Monday, he was alone on Road 156, north of Avenue 344 — an isolated area filled with orange groves.
"He was in the area checking out a suspicious vehicle when he was approached by a suspect," Wittman said. "Soon after that, passers-by were calling in that an officer was down."
Investigators said the assailant apparently pulled a gun and shot Haws but did not know whether the detective was able to return fire. Wittman would not say how many times Haws was hit.
Haws died less than two hours later, about 3:10 p.m., at the hospital.
Although Haws was a detective with the Sheriff's Tactical Enforcement Patrol or STEP team — similar to a SWAT unit — for the past few years, Haws was in uniform with a marked patrol car at the time of the shooting. Haws is the first Tulare County sheriff's deputy to die in the line of duty since October 2005, when deputy Kevin Elium was killed when his patrol car crashed into a tree near Porterville as he responded to a call.
It has been nearly six decades since a Tulare County deputy was killed by gunfire. Special Deputy Carl Oscar Johnson was shot and killed Sept. 30, 1951. Sgt. Chris Douglass, a spokeswoman for the department, struggled with her emotions as she briefed reporters at the crime scene. "It's a very tough day," she said, adding that she and Haws graduated together from College of the Sequoias police academy in Visalia in 1997.
"He was a great friend." Investigators flooded the orange groves north of Ivanhoe.
Road 156 was lined on both sides with patrol vehicles of Tulare County deputies and other agencies, including the California Highway Patrol and Farmersville police. Overhead, a Fresno County sheriff's helicopter helped with a search for suspects or evidence. Inside the yellow-tape crime scene perimeter, detectives huddled near two patrol cars. Emotions ran high as concerned deputies and officers from police agencies throughout Tulare County gathered at Kaweah Delta Hospital. Many cried and hugged their colleagues as they learned of Haws' death.
As officers, friends and relatives arrived at the hospital, they were hustled into a conference room where they were comforted and counseled by volunteers with Kaweah Delta's crisis intervention and stress management team, hospital spokeswoman Dru Quesnoy said. Funeral services are pending, but Wittman said the department's flags would be lowered to half-staff in Haws' memory.
Haws was born in Phoenix and raised in Visalia, graduating from Mt. Whitney High School and College of the Sequoias before serving with the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division. In 2003, Haws fired twice at a 41-year-old man who reportedly tried to run him down during a traffic stop near Porterville. The man, who was critically injured, was eventually charged with attempted homicide on a peace officer and using deadly force during the commission of a felony.
In 2000, Haws was on patrol in the Richgrove area, heading to assist another deputy, when he lost control of his patrol car on a curve and careened out of control, overturning several times. Haws broke his collarbone and injured his back in the accident. Haws was honored in 2003 at the Porterville Exchange Club's annual Crime Prevention Awards banquet as one of its top law enforcement officers.
Copyright 2007 The Fresno Bee