He had a history of violence, running from cops, and escaping from hospitals. Yet, CHP chose to confront an armed felon at a public park surrounded by kids at day camp. An officer and hostage were shot, another hostage was killed, and children and parents were traumatized.
CHP is the Governor's police force with jurisdiction across the state, so what happened in Roseville could happen in any California city.
It's been seven months since the deadly Mahany Park shootout and we still don't have answers to basic questions about the CHP policies that led to the tragic shootout. The agency is refusing to answer questions or release its dashcam recordings, but CHP is not the only agency that appears to be withholding public information.
FAILED POLICIES: One suspect. Three agencies. Countless questions.
In the first of a multi-part series, CBS Sacramento investigates the decision by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to serve a planned, high-risk search warrant, on an armed suspect at a public park surrounded by kids at day camp, without notifying local law enforcement. A hostage was killed. Kids were traumatized. Yet, CHP remains silent.
Next, CBS Sacramento investigates the public's right to see law enforcement records and recordings related to police shootings. The Roseville Police Department won't release most of its body camera video, CHP initially denied the existence of its dash-camera recordings, and Placer County won't release the hostage's coroner's report. They are all public records under California law which has many asking, "What are they hiding?"
Finally, we examine the suspect's escape from the Placer County Sheriff's custody and the agency's notably swift and transparent response.
The April 6th Shootout
On April 6, 2023, an elderly couple was taking a late-morning stroll on one of Roseville's many lush walking trails. Nearby, Mahany Park was filled with kids at spring break day camps put on by the City of Roseville, which is ranked among the safest cities in the country.
Roseville had been recently ranked the best place to live in California, but the safety and security were about to be shattered by a law enforcement decision to serve a high-risk search warrant on an armed felon at a public park.
Court records reveal that Eric Abril was a suspect in a freeway shooting two months earlier in Sacramento, 20 miles away. A CHP special task force had been surveilling Abril in Roseville where he was staying with his mother.
Instead of serving their search warrant at Abril's home, highway patrol decided to follow him to the Mahany dog park. Court records reveal that as Abril "walked back to his Toyota, (an officer) confronted him."
After briefly putting his hands up and walking backward, Abril allegedly "pulled out a pistol and began shooting" at officers, hitting one. CHP officers fired back as Abril ran toward the batting cages where kids were playing.
"That's when we got on the ground," said Kyle, a boy who'd been hitting in the batting cages with his friend. "Then gunshots were fired, roughly 20," he said.
Bullet holes near the batting cages reveal just how close the children were to being shot in the crossfire.
Ethan and his friend Kyle said Abril tripped on one of their baseballs as he ran by.
"He tripped right in front of us. He was like four feet, three feet from Kyle," Ethan said, adding that Abril briefly dropped his gun before picking it up and running toward a nearby ravine.
That's where Jim MacEagn and his high school sweetheart, Patty, were out for a walk. Jim and Patty had just celebrated their 50th anniversary. It would be their last.
Abril took the couple hostage, and within minutes, Jim was dead, Patty was shot and a community was forever changed.
"It was terrifying," Kyle recounted. Abril could have easily taken the boys hostage instead.
Camp counselors nearby tried to shield young kids from the chaos.
"I was stuck in a room called the black hole. It was an equipment room in the gym," explained one young camper.
"They just took us to the library and waited 3 hours," said another camper named Emily.
"I was still terrified," Emily's mom said, even after learning her kids were safe. "You know, both my kids are in the camp. Of course, it's scary."
Children and parents were traumatized by what could have happened... and what did.
Seven Months And Still No Answers
You can still see the scars left by the bullets just feet from where kids dove for cover.
It's been seven months since the Mahany Park shootout and we still don't have answers to basic questions about what's being done to ensure it never happens again.
The multiple agencies involved each appear to be withholding public information.
The CHP won't even discuss the internal investigation into the decision to serve a high-risk search warrant to an armed suspect at a busy public park. CHP is also withholding dash cam recordings of the initial shooting.
The Roseville Police Department, which arrested Abril and took over the investigation, will only release seconds of its body camera video, raising questions about what the agency is trying to hide.
The Placer County Sheriff's Office, which has Abril in custody, is refusing to release the hostage's coroner's report which could confirm he was shot by the suspect and not officers.
Many in law enforcement have concerns about CHP's apparent actions that day.
"This is a person that has been identified as having a propensity for violence," said former Sacramento County Sheriff, John McGinnis. "Is it a foreseeable outcome that violence will be the product? I think it is."
But McGinnis, who is also a law enforcement consultant, adds, that there is no perfect venue to serve a high-risk warrant.
In this case, a basic Google search would have revealed to CHP that Abril had a history of running from police and hiding in a ravine.
After a violent attack in 2014, he led police on a lengthy chase along the San Luis Obispo Creek. However, the CHP won't say if they considered that before serving their warrant at a Roseville park surrounded by creeks and ravines.
Additionally, Roseville PD said the CHP never notified them about plans to serve a high-risk warrant at Mahany Park that day. Had they known, Roseville police might have warned the CHP about the city-run day camps and other risks to the public at the park.
"(Notifying local law enforcement is) a basic fundamental that should be taken care of, should be addressed before this kind of effort is executed," McGinnis said.
Notably, Abril's 2014 police report also reveals that Abril escaped from a local hospital after his arrest, which happened again in Roseville after his arrest this year. The escape prompted a multi-day manhunt before Abril was located in another ravine.
"I have no doubt that there are internal reviews taking place and lessons to be learned as to how to best select the location, how to best pick the time, manner, and circumstances to execute a warrant of this nature," McGinnis said.
CHP declined our interview requests and wouldn't answer written questions about its internal investigation or possible policy changes as a result of the deadly shootout, stating:
"The Department respectfully cannot answer any questions that may influence decisions criminally or administratively that remain under investigation."
"The public has a right to know," said David Loy, the legal director for the First Amendment Coalition.
Loy explains that the CHP is not required to release its findings as long as its internal investigation is ongoing. However, Loy clarifies that CHP *can* release its findings. And now, after seven months, he believes it should.
"The public does have a strong, compelling right to know what are the results of CHP's own internal investigation into whether this was an appropriate tactic to serve a high-risk warrant in these circumstances," he said.
Because, after all, the CHP is the Governor's police force with jurisdiction across the state. Next time, it could be your neighborhood park, your kid's day camp, or your loved one taken hostage and shot dead.
To Be Continued...
Several agencies are also refusing to release public records related to the shootout, including audio and video recordings. Legal experts say that violates state law and raises questions about what law enforcement is hiding.
Next week, in part two of our series, CBS Sacramento investigates the public's right to see those records and recordings, balanced against privacy rights and a fair trial.
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