Crime

Santa Nella woman shot and killed by Merced sheriff’s deputy

Officer involved shooting leaves one dead in Santa Nella

Merced County Sheriff Sgt. Delray Shelton speaks to media following an officer involved shooting which left one woman dead in Santa Nella Tuesday morning, at the Merced County Sheriff's Department in Merced, Calif., Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015.
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Merced County Sheriff Sgt. Delray Shelton speaks to media following an officer involved shooting which left one woman dead in Santa Nella Tuesday morning, at the Merced County Sheriff's Department in Merced, Calif., Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015.

A 50-year-old woman with a recent history of run-ins with law enforcement was shot and killed early Tuesday after authorities say she wielded a kitchen knife and charged a Merced County sheriff’s deputy.

Siolosega Velega-Nuufolau waved a kitchen knife “in a threatening and aggressive manner” at the deputy, according to Merced County sheriff’s Sgt. Delray Shelton.

Authorities were called to the scene in the 29000 block of Del Sol Court by a neighbor, who reported that Velega-Nuufolau was outside, screaming for someone to call 911 about 12:30 a.m. It is not clear why she wanted authorities called.

The deputy fired his weapon multiple times, authorities said.

Velega-Nuufolau was pronounced dead at the scene, Sheriff Vern Warnke said. The deputy suffered a minor injury to his hand when he fell; it is not clear if he fell before or after the shooting.

The deputy’s name was not released, but Shelton said he is an eight-year veteran assigned to the Los Banos substation who previously served as a detective. He has been placed on administrative leave, standard practice for a law enforcement officer involved in a shooting.

Shelton said Velega-Nuufolau was a veteran who had a history of mental problems and several run-ins with the law. He did not say in which branch of the military she served.

Velega-Nuufolau was most recently involved in a Sept. 22 incident in which she brandished two knives at deputies before surrendering after a 90-minute standoff, according to neighbors and the Sheriff’s Department.

After the incident Tuesday morning, vehicles and houses in the typically quiet neighborhood were peppered with bullet holes. A prayer candle and flowers were set up by a fire hydrant near where Velega-Nuufolau died.

Nobody answered the door at Velega-Nuffolau’s home Tuesday afternoon.

Neighbors in the cul de sac awoke early Tuesday to the gunfire and reported hearing six to eight gunshots. They said Velega-Nuufolau’s two young sons played with other children in the neighborhood.

After hearing the gunshots, Jorge Alvarez looked outside his window and saw Velega-Nuufolau’s body in the street. Velega-Nuufolau’s husband also was lying on the ground, Alvarez said.

The husband, whose name was not available, was not reported to have been injured.

Alvarez and his wife, Maria Salazar, live next door to Velega-Nuufolau. Their family moved to Santa Nella from San Jose about a year ago. They moved from a neighborhood with a lot of police activity, but they never experienced anything like what unfolded in Del Sol Court.

Salazar said the gunfire sounded so close, she thought it was in her backyard. The first thing she did was check to make sure her daughters were safe in their beds.

The couple described Velega-Nuufolau and her husband as a couple who mostly kept to themselves and would say “hello” in passing. Salazar said from time to time she saw Velega-Nuufolau helping out at Romero Elementary School, where her two sons attended.

During the September incident, deputies repeatedly asked her to drop the knives, and when she refused, they used bean bag rounds to subdue her, Alvarez said. She was held in the Merced County jail for two weeks, records show.

“They (deputies) had a lot of hours and patience with her,” Alvarez said. “She was like a ticking bomb. You just never know. She needed help.”

This is the third fatal officer-involved shooting in Merced County this year.

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