November 30, 2012

Family, colleagues mourn slain animal control officer

Roy Marcum drove to First Street late Wednesday morning to do what what he did every day of his 14-year career: He went to care for animals in need.

Roy Marcum drove to First Street late Wednesday morning to do what what he did every day of his 14-year career: He went to care for animals in need.

It would be his last call. Marcum, a 45-year-old animal control officer, died just before noon after an assailant, hiding behind the front door of a foreclosed home in Galt, blasted him in the chest with a shotgun.

On Thursday, Marcum's loved ones at home and in the animal care community were still reeling from the shock of his death.

"He loved his family, he loved animals, he loved his country," said close family friend Shelley Pai, a former animal control officer. "He believed in what he did. He went to work faithfully every day."

Earlier Thursday, police ended a nearly 17-hour standoff with Marcum's alleged shooter, Joseph Francis Corey, by taking him into custody at 5 a.m. in the garage of the First Street home. The arrest brought to a close a saga that involved at least five law enforcement agencies, three SWAT teams and a whole neighborhood of residents kept from their homes.

It did not, however, offer insight into the alleged shooter's motivations. What is known is that Corey, 65, apparently in financial distress, lost his home to foreclosure last year and was evicted from the residence Tuesday.

He was seen gathering up belongings outside the home after a locksmith changed the locks.

An official with the bank called animal control after Corey said he did not have a place to take his animals. So Marcum went Wednesday morning to pick them up.

Details about what happened on that front porch were not clear Thursday.

Galt police officials said Marcum, a locksmith and the locksmith's friend shared a brief verbal exchange with the suspect through the closed front door. However, David Dickinson, director of Sacramento County's animal control, said the front door was slightly ajar when they approached. He said they tried to push the door open, but found it barricaded.

Either way, officials agree that the shooter fired through the door.

The locksmith and his friend suffered minor injuries, but Marcum was mortally wounded. Paramedics pronounced him dead at a church around the corner, where he had been pulled by Galt police officers.

Surrounding residents were evacuated before police began laborious efforts to coax out the shooter, who remained inside. Pleas via megaphone and telephone were unsuccessful. Even multiple rounds of tear gas – fired into the house starting about 10:30 p.m. – did not force him out.

Officials described Corey as a hoarder, and said the condition of his home complicated their tactical efforts.

Eventually, SWAT team members from Elk Grove and Galt snuck into the garage and waited for an opportunity. When Corey came downstairs to check on a dog, they fired a Taser, rushed him and took him into custody.

Corey remained Thursday evening at a local hospital, where he was being evaluated for incarceration. He was expected to be booked into jail later on suspicion of murder, said Sacramento County Sheriff's Sgt. Jason Ramos.

Efforts to reach Corey's family were unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, Marcum's wife, Tina, picked up her husband's personal belongings and waited for his body to be released from the Sacramento County Coroner's Office. Family members at the couple's Elk Grove home said she was not ready for an interview.

Other loved ones recalled a warm, jovial man with an infectious smile and a gift for connecting with people and animals alike.

"Any conversation that you had with Roy started with laughter or ended with laughter," said Dickinson, the animal control director. "It's just who he was."

Fellow animal control officer Mechelle Crites said Marcum had such a way with people that he could even win over those he cited in the course of his job.

"He just had one of those smiles. It was an easygoing, laid-back smile," said Crites, 34. "No matter how bad of a mood you were in, you had to smile back and almost laugh."

Born and raised in the Sacramento area, Marcum served in the U.S. Air Force before beginning his career in animal control 14 years ago. While working for Sacramento County, Marcum also attended school to become a licensed electrician, friends and family said.

The father of two teenagers and stepfather to his wife's two grown children, Marcum was a dedicated family man, frequently seen at softball games and other events featuring his kids, loved ones said. He enjoyed camping and the outdoors. "He spent so much quality time with his family," Pai said, as Marcum's daughter quietly wept in a car close by. "They will have so many good memories, once they can get past the pain."

Marcum's other great passion, his family and friends said, was caring for animals.

Pai, 54, said Marcum was deeply devoted to the animals he rescued, often following up to see how they were getting along at the shelter, or taking the dogs for walks on his own time. He rescued his beloved pitbull Petunia despite her underbite and mangled tail. She rode with him to work every day, including his last.

"He would have just an amazing touch with animals," said Crites, Marcum's co-worker. "They responded very well to him, even the most fearful and aggressive (ones)."

Crites said news of Marcum's violent death was so startling, she had to sit down. The next day, she said, she was still struggling to understand it.

"The world has a huge hole in it now because he's gone – not just the human world, but the animal world," she said.

Some friends and family are questioning why animal control officers – who sometimes encounter dangerous animals as well as dangerous people – are not better protected while on the job.

In California, animal control officers have the power of arrest, but are not sworn peace officers. Whether they are armed or wear protective vests varies greatly depending on the agency, said Marcia Mayeda, president of the California Animal Control Directors Association.

In Sacramento County, officers can carry pepper spray, but it is not required, Dickinson said. They do carry batons and poles to help them catch loose animals. Inside their trucks, they carry rifles for killing rabid or severely injured animals, but not for personal protection. Some carry tranquilizer guns.

Dickinson said employees of animal control – formally the Department of Animal Care and Regulation – discussed making bulletproof vests part of the uniform several years ago, before he was director.

Employees ultimately decided to forgo the vests because they are uncomfortable and restrictive, he said. In light of Marcum's death, Dickinson said he believes the issue should be revisited.

Mayeda, of the statewide organization, said her group would be closely reviewing Marcum's death and potentially drafting legislation promoting more protections.

"It's just shocked animal control (officials) up and down the state," she said.

After the shooting, Dickinson said he called in his team, told them the devastating news, then sent everybody home. When employees returned to work Thursday, chaplains were available for counseling.

Healing, Dickinson said, will be slow.

"It was just a senseless killing. It just didn't have to happen," he said. "Maybe the investigators or the psychologists will be able to get some answers out of (the suspect). But whatever the reason, it's not going to be good enough."

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