Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Santa Cruz Man Shot Big Sur Firefighter Receives 14 years Probation

Santa Cruz man who shot Big Sur firefighter pleads out for 14 years probation, treatment

A man who shot a firefighter in Big Sur in 2017 and has brain damage from an electrocution years before has agreed to a plea deal of 14 years on probation and at least one year in a secure mental health facility.

Jacob Thomas Kirkendall, 27, of Santa Cruz, pleaded guilty to two counts of assault with a deadly weapon and one count of resisting arrest in Monterey County Superior Court Wednesday morning as part of the deal.

"It's such a different disposition," said Judge Pamela Butler.

The Monterey County District Attorney's Office had accused Kirkendall of shooting on-duty U.S. Forest Service firefighter Peter Harris with a shotgun on Dec. 11, 2017, according to court records.

"He was having a manic episode and mental breakdown," said Kenneth Rosenfeld, Kirkendall's attorney.

Harris has since recovered but still has bullet fragments in his neck and head, Rosenfeld said.

Kirkendall suffered brain damage 7 years ago when he was electrocuted by throwing water on a fire, not knowing there was a live power line amid the flames.

The current traveled up the water and burned parts of his brain, including the part responsible for judgment, Rosenfeld said. Kirkendall spent about 100 days in a medically induced coma.

Jacob Kirkendall

That means it's impossible to say what exactly was going through Kirkendall's head when he opened fire on Harris, Rosenfeld said.

Kirkendall was in his vehicle in a remote part of Big Sur when he opened fire on Harris with a shotgun, Rosenfeld said. He didn't have the exact address readily available.

Kirkendall then drove away but was arrested by the Monterey County Sheriff's Office, Rosenfeld said.

He eventually encountered deputies, who opened fire on him after he threatened them with his vehicle, according to court records. They did not hit him, but did hit his vehicle, the records show.

He originally faced attempted murder of a peace officer charges, assault with a deadly weapon charges for his alleged attacks with his vehicle and the possibility of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Rosenfeld said he's been working with prosecutors for months to hammer out the "extraordinarily fair" deal.

"I think all parties recognize this was a special, individual case of somebody who had severe brain damage," he said, adding he's never had a client receive a 14-year probation sentence.

Deputy District Attorney Chris Knight told Judge Butler that Harris approved of the plea deal.

Kirkendall will be required to spend at least a year at Alpine Special Treatment Center in San Diego.

"It's not like he's getting out. He's going to be in a locked facility," Rosenfeld said.

He could spend more time there because he won't be released until it's approved by both Alpine's medical staff and Butler, Knight said.

If they sign off on his release, he would still have to attend an outpatient mental health program, Rosenfeld said.

Kirkendall will be responsible for all treatment expenses, including refunding the sheriff's office for his transportation, Knight said.

In addition, Butler said Kirkendall will be on formal probation for up to 14 years and eight months.

"If he violates his probation, he will go to prison without any (time-served) credits," she said.

He has been in the Monterey County Jail since his arrest, jail records show. He also will be barred from driving and owning any firearm for the rest of his life, Butler noted.

During the hearing, Kirkendall said little besides entering his plea and telling Butler he understood the conditions of his deal.

After the hearing, his parents referred questions to Rosenfeld.

The deal is scheduled to be finalized Friday morning in court after some routine legal hurdles are cleared, Rosenfeld said. He has a bed reserved at the facility starting Monday.

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