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Calif. cop shot with pellet gun spared gunman's life

The officer was praised for not returning fire when it would have been justified to shoot back

By Jeremy Hay
The Press Democrat

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. — Clear and cool thinking under pressure by a Lake County Sheriff's Deputy saved the life of a man who repeatedly fired pellet guns at him, said authorities who investigated the deputy's May 15 actions.

"The extreme calm and intelligent mannerism exhibited by Deputy (Lyle) Thomas is a model of professionalism that should be taught and reviewed by officers throughout this state," Lake County District Attorney Don Anderson said in a statement.

Robert Scott Hisell (Courtesy of Lake County Sheriff's Office)
Robert Scott Hisell (Courtesy of Lake County Sheriff's Office)

An investigation by Anderson's office formally concluded on Friday that Thomas did nothing wrong in the Clearlake Oaks incident in which he traded gunfire with a felon, Robert Scott Hisell, who was lightly injured in the exchange.

The events began when Thomas responded to a call involving a woman who reported she had been shot with a pellet gun. As Thomas talked to the woman outside, Hisell came out of his house carrying a high-powered pellet rifle that looked like an assault rifle, Anderson said.

As Hisell, 52, pointed the rifle at him, Thomas used his body as a shield and pulled the woman to safety. Hisell then fired at Thomas — at which point the deputy determined that it was a pellet rifle. Despite being shot at repeatedly, Thomas did not return fire and gave at least 35 orders to Hisell to drop his weapon, Anderson said.

Hisell refused to relinquish the gun and shouted threats and "nonsensical comments" at Thomas. Then he pulled what appeared to be a black Glock pistol from a fanny pack, Anderson said.

Thomas several times ordered Hisell to drop the weapon but, Anderson said, Hisell leveled the gun at the deputy, at which point Thomas fired five times at him. As Hisell returned fire, Thomas determined the rounds were coming from a pellet gun.

When an officer with another law enforcement agency told Thomas he had a clear shot at Hisell, Thomas told the officer to hold his fire "although the officer would have been justified under the circumstances in shooting the suspect," Anderson said.

"This decision by Deputy Thomas saved the life of the suspect," Anderson said, who commended Thomas for "extreme bravery and ... restraint."

A SWAT team eventually arrested Hisell on suspicion of attempted murder and other charges.

Copyright 2013 The Press Democrat

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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