Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp said Wednesday that her office is “reviewing everything” related to the accidental shooting death of Fresno County sheriff’s Sgt. Rod Lucas by a fellow deputy.
Smittcamp said her office is reviewing the incident “like we do in any officer-involved shooting.” Beyond that, however, Smittcamp declined to comment on the nature of the investigation or how long the review may take. The Sheriff’s Office is also conducting an investigation.
A bullet fired accidentally from a colleague’s gun fatally struck Lucas in the chest as he and three colleagues gathered Monday afternoon in a room at the sheriff’s Special Investigations Unit near Fresno Yosemite International Airport. At a news conference Tuesday, Sheriff Margaret Mims said Lucas and a detective, who has not been identified, were discussing safety of backup weapons when the detective’s gun discharged. Lucas died later at Community Regional Medical Center. Mims said the investigations unit is made up of plainclothes officers who investigate crimes such as narcotics and vice. No one was wearing a bulletproof vest.
An autopsy has been performed on Lucas, but the pathologist has yet to write the report to list the cause of death, said sheriff’s spokesman Tony Botti.
Because the case is an occupational workplace death, the incident is also under investigation by Cal/OSHA, the occupational safety division of the state’s Department of Industrial Relations. Cal/OSHA spokeswoman Julie Bernstein said the agency was notified Tuesday of “a fatal incident” in which “an officer discharged his firearm while holstering it.”
The type of firearm involved in the shooting was not disclosed.
Bernstein had no information about the frequency or rarity for law enforcement officers to be accidentally shot and killed by a colleague in the workplace. But statistics compiled by state and federal occupational-safety agencies suggest that such cases are rare. Figures show that 45 police or sheriff’s patrol officers were killed on the job in California from 2010 through 2014. Of those, 20 died at the hands of another person – and all of those shooting deaths were deemed intentional homicides.
Fresno police Lt. Joe Gomez said Wednesday his department would play no part in investigating the shooting, and Botti indicated that the Sheriff’s Office was in charge of the probe.
“We investigate ourselves,” Botti said. “We do this all the time.”
There was no indication when the deputy involved in the shooting would be identified. Mims said Tuesday he had not been interviewed “because of his mental state,” noting that he was distraught in the wake of the tragedy.
Lucas was a husband and father of four children ranging in age from 12 to 28, and he also had one grandchild. He grew up in Tranquillity in western Fresno County. The sheriff described him as “truly a leader in the best terms I can describe.” He joined the Sheriff’s Office in September 1996.
Lucas is the 12th sheriff’s deputy killed on duty since the office’s inception in 1856.
The sheriff said Lucas’ death, coming less than two months after two correctional officers were shot in the jail lobby in early September, hit the office hard.
“We’re grieving,” she said.
A funeral service for Lucas has been set for 10 a.m. Nov. 9 at Peoples Church, 7172 N. Cedar Ave. in Fresno, the Sheriff’s Office announced late Wednesday.
On Thursday, Tranquillity High School, where Lucas attended, will honor the sergeant with a brief ceremony before its varsity football game, Botti said. The ceremony will be held between 7 and 7:30 p.m. as friends of Lucas gather at the 46 yard line (the sergeant was 46 years old) to share a few words, have a moment of silence and release white balloons in his memory. The sideline has been painted with the number of his high school football jersey, 88, and a message: “In loving memory of Rod Lucas 1970-2016”
How to help
Anyone wishing to offer financial help to Rod Lucas’ family should send it to:
Fresno Deputy Sheriff’s Association
1360 Van Ness Ave., Fresno CA 93721
Note: Place “Rod Lucas” in the memo field