Join Date: February 28, 2008
Toddler beat to death
Imagine being the first to walk up on this scene. I wonder how far this would have to go before an armed civilian can justifiably shoot in California.
TURLOCK – A crazed man parked on a dark country road Saturday night, took a baby boy from the car seat in his pickup and beat the child to death until a Modesto police officer, dropped on the scene by helicopter, shot the man dead, authorities said.
Passerbys calling 911 at 10:13 p.m. described a horrific scene on West Bradbury Road near the intersection of South Blaker Road in rural Stanislaus County, 10 miles west of Turlock. At least one man tried to stop the attacker, who swung and slammed the child into the asphalt behind his parked four-door Toyota pickup.
"In the shadows and light it looked like he had hit an animal," said Dan Robinson, the chief of Crows Landing Volunteer Fire Department, who came upon the chaos driving home from a late dinner in Turlock. "As we backed up again, I could see that he had blood on his arms. I could see that it was a small child."
Robinson jumped from his vehicle and confronted the man, who lunged at him. Robinson said the man wasn't screaming and wasn't loud, but was forceful, saying "demons" were in the boy.
"Give me the knife. Give me the knife," the man said as he grabbed for a pen in the firefighter's front pocket.
"There was a total hollowness in his eyes," Robinson said, "like I could see right through to the back of his head."
A Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department helicopter, flown by a deputy with a Modesto police officer in the second seat, was on patrol in the Turlock area. It arrived six minutes after the first 911 call, said Deputy Royjindar Singh, the sheriff's spokesman.
"The helicopter spotlights the scene and sees this guy just beating on this infant or baby in the middle of the road. I can't imagine what that looked like," Singh said.
The helicopter landed in a nearby cow pasture and the Modesto police officer jumped out. He drew his service pistol and commanded the man to stop from about 10 feet away from behind a set of electric and barbed wire fences. When the man "continued to stomp the child," the officer fired, Singh said.
The officer's name, the number of times he fired and where the dead man was shot were not released Sunday. The officer was placed on paid administrative leave, which is departmental policy for all officer-involved shootings.
The child was rushed to Emanuel Medical Center in Turlock, where he was pronounced dead.
Authorities would not disclose the identity of the dead man or his relationship to the boy. Singh said the boy was 12 to 24 months old, but DNA testing may be required to identify him because he was beaten beyond recognition.
"Our firefighter was doing CPR on the baby when I arrived," said Mountain View Fire Chief Kevin Blount, who was there shortly after the shooting. "It's never easy, but it's always harder with little children, especially in circumstances like this."
Confusion and spotty cell phone coverage had dozens of police scrambling through Ceres and Turlock until the location became clear. The violence, Singh said, was so graphic from the helicopter's birds-eye view that there was no hesitation on the part of the officer, who shot the man dead after less than two minutes on the scene.
Dozens of law enforcement officers, set up under giant spotlights, worked through the night trying to piece together what happened. The attacker, who police said was 27, and the child were traveling west, but the truck, a gold color, was parked in the wrong lane, facing oncoming traffic.
By Sunday afternoon, the investigators had cleared out.
Short rows of fresh-planted corn lined one side of the road, cows were pastured in another. The helicopter rotors washed a big dirt circle into the green pasture.
Two long, dark bloodstains streaked the road.
Neighbors mingled on the fenceline of nearby Thomas Dairy asking the same questions as investigators: Was the attacker on drugs? Mentally ill? All of the above? Why did it happen here?
Isabelle Thomas, who lives a few hundred yards from the scene, was working at Emanuel Medical Center, a nurse in the surgical unit, when her son called her with word something bad had happened. Soon she heard of the little boy who died 500 yards from her front door.
"I couldn't go to sleep," she said.
Sunday morning, she watched a tow truck haul away the pickup. The inside cab, she said, was smeared with blood. A rosary swung from the rearview mirror.
"I've been here 53 years," said her brother, John Thomas, "I've never seen anything like this before."