Atwater witness describes officer-involved shooting
A man shot and killed last week in a confrontation with law enforcement in Atwater has been identified by the Merced County Sheriff’s Office.
Authorities on Monday said the man killed Friday inside a home in the 2600 block of Atwater Boulevard was 42-year-old Timothy Breckenridge of Merced.
The three law enforcement officers involved in the deadly confrontation also were identified Monday as Sgt. Kevin Blake, a 16-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office; Deputy Brian Carbaugh, who has been a deputy for two years; and Probation’s Alex Cruz, a supervising officer who has been with the department for more than 10 years. All three remained on paid administrative leave Monday.
Sheriff Vern Warnke last week said Breckenridge was armed with an unspecified type of firearm at the time of the shooting. Warnke said Monday Breckenridge had a replica gun that fired plastic or metal BBs “that at a glance, coming in, looks very real.”
The officers were part of a team serving a warrant on another person, who was not identified by the Sheriff’s Office on Monday, and were not at the Atwater home in search of Breckenridge, Warnke said.
“The unfortunate event happened on Friday ... when they tried to get this guy to give up, he didn’t,” he said. “I have viewed the video on this, and it’s very evident of the circumstances.”
“He made enough of a movement that justified officers on our parts to shoot him,” Warnke said.
Warnke said the body-camera footage would not be made immediately available, saying it is evidence in an on-going investigation. Investigators are still looking into how man shots were fired, he said.
A witness in the area on the day of the shooting said he heard about 10 gunshots fired.
The incident was the “first ever” officer-involved shooting that included a Merced County probation officer, according to Probation Chief Jeff Kettering.
Nina Jones, a resident of the Atwater home, said she was inside with Breckenridge and three other people when a Merced County Probation officer and two sheriff's deputies knocked on the door attempting to conduct a probation check on her son.
Jones said she told authorities her son recently was put on a probation program and didn't live there anymore, but they forced themselves into the home and started to conduct their search.
When one of the officials looked into the kitchen, Jones said she heard him say "get your hands out of your pockets" and "put the gun down," Jones said. At that point, two more officers ran into the kitchen and kept telling the man to put the gun down.
Then, Jones said, she heard gunshots before the probation officer ran out of the kitchen and told the residents to get out.
While she didn't see the firearm the victim was holding, Jones said a neighbor told her the man was previously at his home and armed with a BB gun.
Jones also said she knew the man had a mental illness, and that it seemed as if he was hiding in a corner of the kitchen because several bullet holes in the wall were located near the ground, where a pool of blood collected.
“The man was sitting on the floor in my kitchen trying to hide from them, because he was wanted. And, they shot him,” she said. “He’s in the corner, on the floor, and they shot him. They could have used a Taser. They could have shot him one time.”
She also said authorities took several items from her home without giving her a receipt.
“Did they actually feel their life was threatened that much by a man with a BB gun?” she asked.
Deputies on Monday said the gun had been painted to look real and released a photograph of the pellet gun.
According to records from the Merced-area Crime Stoppers, Breckenridge had been placed on Merced County’s “Most Wanted” list on March 27, three days before his deadly encounter with law enforcement.
Crime Stoppers reported Breckenridge was wanted on two no-bail warrants charging him with probation violations. Breckenridge was on probation for a vehicle-theft conviction and a conviction for passing bad checks. Jail records show Breckenridge had been in and out of custody nearly a dozen times in Merced County since 2015, mostly in connection with alleged probation violations.