WILLITS, 11/30/21 — An argument led to gunshots Friday morning outside a gas station on Main Street, and the cashier called the cops — but it took multiple phone calls and about two hours for officers from the Willits Police Department to arrive on scene. Now they’re facing criticism from the proprietor, who says officers should have been dispatched immediately. Police Chief Fabian Lizarraga described the incident as a communications breakdown on both sides, but acknowledged that his officers “should have gotten there sooner.”
The shooting occurred outside the AMPM at 898 South Main Street around 6 a.m. Friday, Nov. 26. According to store manager and part-owner Muhammad Zarnoor, roughly a half-dozen individuals from multiple groups were involved in a verbal confrontation in which people started cursing at each other, and then suddenly walked away. Three rounds were fired. Two of them struck the building. The victims ran inside and told the employee on shift he’d been shot at, prompting the employee to call the police — but officers didn’t arrive on scene until after 8 a.m.
“My understanding was it was kind of downplayed. We had trouble keeping him talking, because he was apparently conducting his business like normal when he was talking to us,” Lizarraga told The Mendocino Voice Tuesday, referring to the caller. ‘It didn’t come out as urgent a matter as it should have. We’ll take the hit for not pressing further, I guess, and seeing what was happening or what the guy was seeing, but it was also a communication breakdown on the other side as well.”
“They were just trying to make an excuse,” Zarnoor responded. Regardless of how effectively the cashier communicated the details of the crime to dispatch, Zarnoor argues that officers should have responded. He had to call them a second time to get them on scene. “A customer is coming and telling the guy behind the register ‘someone just shot at me.’ You should just come out regardless of what the cashier is saying, because the cashier can only see so much — he’s inside.”
Zarnoor added this is the first time anything like this has happened at the AMPM since he got involved with the store. An armed robbery was reported at that location in Dec. 2017, however, according to KRCR TV in Redding.
Arrest records show that Willits police booked Joshua Webb Smith into county jail around 5 a.m. Sunday on suspicion of shooting at an inhabited dwelling. Court documents show he was charged with possession of an assault rifle in 2019, although that charge was dismissed as part of a plea negotiation. In that case Smith ultimately pleaded no contest to possession of a firearm while under the influence and was sentenced to 90 days in jail. Chief Lizarraga confirmed Smith is suspected of being involved in the shooting, but investigators are still working to positively identify the shooter.
It took them 2 hours because they were busy writing parking tickets, In Safeway parking lot for parking in the charge station for charging electric cars, $57.50 ticket was on my windshield when i got in my car, Petty s*** instead of protecting the people , Its real important to write parking tickets GOOD JOB WPD.
I pulled into the dinosaur mart gas station about 4 months ago got out to pump gas and just as I went to put my card into the pump a willits police officer pulled in behind me….He got out and proceeded to write me a ticket for no mud flaps….I know it’s a violation but when there are 3 other 4×4 pickups in the same gas station without mudflats…that’s when I knew I was getting profiled…when I told the officer I wasn’t gonna sign the ticket he dropped his pen and pad and grabbed his cuff and said your going to jail….(I also dont have an arrest record either)….
1Way to go willits police Department….your job is to protect and serve not annoy and harrass
It has to be the current roster of cops. I was pulled over and my car, which happened to be my home and only protection from the elements, impounded for expired registration and my license had expired. Just expired, not suspended or revoked. Due to Pandemic i was having a hard time getting my license renewed. I was forced to throw everything i own on the sidewalk. My clothes, my blankets, tools for a job that i dont have anymore and food. I wont name the cop(police officers are there to protect and serve) because of retaliation by the cops. I know that my registration was expired, a infraction, but did that require that my home and transportation to and from work( a job i lost) really require this level of response? Apparently so, given the fact it was more important to issue parking tickets than stop a potential murder. Given the current state of things, i really worry about how or how they don’t respond.
Crazy…it used to be if you sneezed while driving you’d get pulled over & 5 cops would be there ripping into you. Now someone calls in a shooting & they take their sweet time. I never would’ve thought Willits would be like this.
I have been observing that the WPD has seemed more organized recently after going through a period where they did not appear to be well organized. The report is concerning, but I am open to explanations and the notion that the experience will be addressed and that we will all be better off for it.
We should fire the lot and hire some geezer biker gang to handle the dirty work.. a little anarchy would do us some good..