CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Police Discuss Rescue of Kidnapped California Girls
Aired August 2, 2002 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, we're going to take you live to Bakersfield, everyone, where the news conference has begun with the Kern County Sheriff's Department, the place where Roy Ratliff was killed and two teenagers were found alive.
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SHERIFF CARL SPARKS, KERN COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: ... brief blessing. Chaplain?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let us all bow our heads please.
SPARKS: I am just going to give my comments, and then I'll turn it over to the men and women that really did the job.
First of all, this incident is -- the result of this incident is -- why all of us in law enforcement put on a uniform. We are so proud of what our men and women did with the Kern County Sheriff's Department and the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, the California Highway Patrol, Animal Control, Caltrans, and just the citizens of this community and of the state. Amber alert worked. And what happened to the -- at the end of this situation was two girls are safe, and I honestly believe they were probably 10 minutes away from being killed and buried out there somewhere in that ravine. And it occurred because of the team work in law enforcement.
And I am just so proud to wear this uniform today and have the opportunity to represent the best of law enforcement. This is the best of law enforcement
I talked to Jimmy Stratton and Larry Thasher (ph), the two deputies, and I told them I couldn't be prouder than I am of those two deputy sheriffs and what they did. But there was a team there.
And now I would like to introduce the Chief Michael Soderberg from Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. This is where the incident occurred, and that's the information he is going to give you -- Chief.
MICHAEL SODERBERG, LOS ANGELES SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: I think that most of the details of this incident have gone over the airwaves multiple times over the past 24 hours, so I am not going to get into a repeat of what occurred. And I will answer any questions. Basically, we had a double kidnapping of two teenagers out of the Quartz Hill area of Los Angeles County yesterday morning about 1:00. Hundreds of law enforcement officers from multiple agencies -- local, state and federal -- convened not only on the crime scene, but the command post, and a massive search went under way for the suspect.
The cooperation between the news media and local law enforcement, Both Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, Los Angeles Police Department, FBI, Kern County Sheriff, and a variety of different other agencies resulted in the identification and the capture and eventual demise of the suspect.
My information is that both teenaged girls are safe. They are with their families. At the moment, there is an investigation that is ensuing. A lot of work needs to be done. A lot of leads need to be followed up. A lot of interviews still yet to be conducted. A lot of forensic evidence still yet to be identified and recovered and examined.
So I can take your questions.
QUESTION: Chief Soderberg, how well do you think the amber system did work? And why was there a five-hour delay before it really kicked in?
SODERBERG: Well, it's two questions. I will answer the first one. I am going to defer the second one to the state representatives that are here. The amber alert system for us went up last Friday. Just a few days later, we put it into practice. As far as we're concerned, the system worked marvelously. As most of you know, by 5:00 yesterday morning, when most of the news channels went up, we had pictures of the victims. We had a picture of the vehicle that was taken and the license plate's number. And most of you that got on the freeways yesterday, at least in southern California, like I kid about 6:00 or 6:30, saw all of the freeway signs that were constantly beeping the information regarding the Ford Bronco and the license plate number. And I think it said child abduction.
So as far as we're concerned, it worked just the way it was supposed to work. We're overjoyed it worked that way. I think we can say that all the planets were in alignment on that one. And we hope to have great success like that in the future.
QUESTION: Any changes need to be made over the next few days to make it work better?
SODERBERG: I don't see how it could have worked any better, quite frankly.
QUESTION: Chief, can you explain to us from a law enforcement perspective why you believe the girls were just minutes away from being killed.
SODERBERG: Well, I didn't make that statement. The sheriff of Kern County made that statement. Maybe you should ask him that. I wasn't there with the suspect. The suspect is dead. We don't know exactly, although I can tell you that from 32 years of experience that if somebody does what he did and he was a fugitive to begin with, and he was up in that remote area -- and it was, I understand, an extremely remote area, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out. QUESTION: Can we ask Sheriff Sparks to explain that?
SPARKS: First, let us go through all our people that are going to talk about the incident. And we'll come back. And I'm not leaving here until I answer all your questions, so don't worry about that. OK? But let's go through the rest of our people that are here to speak, and then we'll open it up for questions. And we're not going to leave until we answer all your questions as well as we can. OK?
So next I would like to introduce Commander Keith Nelson.
COMMANDER KEITH NELSON, KERN COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I'm Commander Keith Nelson with the Kern County Sheriff's Department. However, my job here this morning is to the heap praise on the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Early on yesterday morning, the amber alert system did go out. It did work. On the way to work, I saw it working, personally. I have a long drive. I'm the east area substation commander. I flipped on my scanner, and every truck driver in California was talking about this vehicle and looking for it.
Early on, Los Angeles County Sheriff's detective identified the suspect and he had a Kern County connection. Kern County was immediately contacted. And I was dispatched to the Los Angeles command center in Antelope Valley, where I was right in the heart of the operation receiving the tips as they were coming in. We followed up on our end with the Kern County connection that identified Roy Dean Ratliff as the suspect. His friends, relatives and the areas he frequented in Kern County -- we directed units and had air units and ground units already within proximity of where he was located.
And I can't tell you how appreciative I was of the cooperation shown to me by Los Angeles County. It's a new era. There are no more boarders for counties. We are working as one. Bad guys, look out.
SPARKS: And of course, Commander Keith Nelson will be available for questions at the end of the presentation.
Next I would like to introduce commander Hal Chealander. He was the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) commander where the officer-involved shooting occurred -- Commander.
COMMANDER HAL CHEALANDER, KERN COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: Thank you, and good morning.
I would like to take you through a chronological perspective of what occurred yesterday in response to ultimate outcome of this particular incident. I oversee what we call our northeast substation area, which involves the Kern Valley substation area and the Ridgecrest substation area.
About 9:30 in the morning yesterday, our law enforcement personnel, including the sheriff's substation in Ridgecrest, received a tip from an unidentified motorist that this suspect vehicle was spotted on Highway 14 near Pearsonville. Now, Pearsonville is near the Inyo County-Kern County boarder on the extreme north end of Kern County. Our sheriff personnel responded. I began investigation. Could not locate the vehicle at that particular time.
Around 11:30 in the morning, a couple of hours later, a Caltrans road work crew in the vicinity of Walker Pass on State Route 178. Now, State Route 178 connects the Mojave Desert to the San Joaquin Valley. It's a major artery right through that mountainous and desert area. Immediately, a highway patrol officer came out of the Ridgecrest area, where he was assigned, to try to catch up with this vehicle that was sighted by the work crew traveling westbound on 178. As well, a highway patrol officer was dispatched out of the Kern Valley substation going eastbound on 178 to try to locate this vehicle.
Then we started activating the resources. I responded, as did the substation sergeant in Kern Valley and another personnel that were on duty at that time, and we started converging on the area. We were very fortunate to have our helicopter available. Our helicopter become airborne within about 30 minutes and was responding to the area. Likewise, we were communicating with the command post at Antelope Valley and the sheriff's department, and they started sending resources. We had a highway patrol plane en route to our location, as well as Los Angeles County Sheriff helicopter en route to our location to assist in this search. This is very vast remote area. We needed all the resources that we could muster in order to search this area.
The two highway patrol officers that were -- one was westbound, one was eastbound -- converged and met in South Lake. They could not locate or they did not locate the vehicle. So there was an immediate assumption that if in fact that was our suspect vehicle, he turned off somewhere. So our biggest concern was OK, how can he get out of the area? There are two remote areas a person can get out of that particular area on, One goes to the north; it's the Chimney Peak road. It connects to Kennedy Meadows and ultimately down what we call Nine Mile back to highway 14 near Pearsonville. Going south, the Kelson Road connects to the Jawbone Road that comes down to Highway 14 in the desert around the Jawbone Canyon area. So we needed to cut those arteries off as soon as possible.
As the planes converged, we put the Kern County sheriff's helicopter on the China Peak road as well as the deputy sheriff. The highway patrol was covering the Kelso Valley Road, and we assigned the highway patrol to that area so they could have direct communication with their ground officer. The L.A. Sheriff's we assigned to the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) area because the information that we were receiving -- and we were receiving a lot of information as this was going on, via the radio -- was that suspect had a connection to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and may have been sighted in (UNINTELLIGIBLE). So there is a possibility that he may still be in the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) area. We assigned the L.A. County helicopter to the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) area to coordinate with our ground units that were in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) circulating.
As this was all coming together, an alert animal control officer, Kern County animal control officer has a scanner in her vehicle and she was listening to this traffic. Like I mentioned, there was a lot of chatter on the radio, as I think most of the news agencies were picking up on their scanners. Somewhere in this time frame, she observed the vehicle that was being discussed on the radio, or a vehicle similar to, off of Highway 178, back to the west of Highway 178, in a little flat disappearing into some trees. You could just see the back frame and the taillights disappearing into some trees.
Well, she immediately made the connection this may be the vehicle. So she continued her journey for a short distance, where met up with the Ridgecrest-Kern county sheriff's sergeant and immediately relayed this information to him. He immediately got on the radio, gave it to our helicopter and ground units, and the location was given as the White Blanket area.
Now, the White Blanket area is -- it's my understanding it's a federal allocated piece of property. Not necessarily an Indian reservation, but it's a land allocation. And there are a couple of mobile homes -- they don't appear to be lived in -- in that particular area. The deputies that were working this particular case and ultimately involved in the shooting were very familiar. They've been up there on other incidents, on other calls for service. So they immediately responded, as did the helicopter. Of course, the helicopter had to be directed by the ground units because he was not totally familiar with a lot of the names and the landmarks up there.
But once he got the general vicinity from the ground units, he had the immediate response, and boom, before you know it, he was right over the top of this vehicle. So he was able to, from that point on, direct the ground units in. The ground units were coming in on this dirt road. And again, you've got to bear in mind -- some of you, I think, were up there, and you saw the pictures from the helicopters on the subsequent news reports -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE) very remote. This dirt road takes a lot of twists and turns, and there's one pretty sharp little hairpin turn that comes around where the patrol officers were coming in. The helicopter was right over the top. The first patrol car comes face-to-face with the suspect vehicle that's parked facing back towards the patrol vehicles.
So virtually the escape route via the road was cut off. He had nowhere to go because the deputies were blocking his escape route, which was the road he took in there.
There was an exchange of words at that time. The deputies were out of their car. Guns drawn. There was an exchange of words. The suspect put it in gear, and he decided to go crosscountry.
He immediately went down a sharp embankment over another little dirt road spur, jumped that berm, jumped another berm, and ultimately ended up in a creekbed, a dry creekbed, high centered on a big boulder. The dirt was flying everywhere. The wheels were spinning. The two officers left their vehicles and immediately respond to where he become stuck and engaged the suspect in the vehicle.
Again, they were yelling, demanding he surrender, give us his position and exit the vehicle. A loud exchange of words. The defiant suspect was cussing at them. He eventually reached and got into the back seat area of the suspect vehicle, of the Bronco, and he appeared to be groping and searching for something. Well, the thing that he was searching for was his gun. And he found his gun. The deputies were positioned strategically around the vehicle, where they can see in the vehicle and control the suspect. Now, bear in mind this whole time neither of our deputies saw the girls. The girls were not in sight. They had no clue that they were in the vehicle. So their focus was on this suspect.
The suspect came up from the back seat with the gun and pointed it at the deputy on the right hand and near the front of the vehicle as the deputy was positioned there. The deputy on the other side of the vehicle saw this occur, saw the immediate on that deputy sheriff, feared for that deputy sheriff's life, and shot. He shot, shattering the back window of the Bronco. And he thought that he hit the suspect because the suspect slumped in the seat.
However, just shortly thereafter, the suspect came right back up with the gun, pointed it right back at the same deputy, and the deputy fired again. Now, during this firing of the guns, the girls revealed their location, which was in the back of the Bronco. And they were hunkered down as low profile as they could get, and rightly so, as this was going on. They came up. They were hysterical.
Immediately, the deputy who had fired the initial shots got into a rescue mode. One girl was coming out the back; the other one was scrambling to get out of the car. The whole time this was happening, the deputy was at the front of the vehicle, was still engaged with the suspect. The suspect again came up from the back seat with the gun, and the second deputy fired.
At that time, the suspect appeared to be stopped, his threat stopped. And we were able to get a handcuff on this particular individual. The girls were carried to safety, which was back at the patrol cars. And the rest is history.
I can't tell you how excited we are in the Kern County Sheriff's Department that these girls are safe and this concluded the way it did other than the tragedy of having to engage and ultimately shoot the suspect.
QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) can you explain why the deputies fired? Should they have been assuming that the girls might be in the car?
CHEALANDER: Certainly, there's so many things going through your mind and split-second reaction is the nature of the beast in law enforcement. Certainly, that was in their minds. But there was no -- they did not see the females. They had an immediate threat to their persons that they had to deal with. And they dealt it with very effectively and very professionally.
QUESTION: And can you explain how many times they shot?
CHEALANDER: I don't have that information. That's going to be addressed with another presenter.
Thanks. SPARKS: Next on the list is Sergeant Mike Moore. He's the sergeant in charge of robbery homicide. This shooting incident is his investigation -- Sergeant.
SERGEANT MIKE MOORE: Well, good morning.
I had intended to probably go over some of the same details that Commander Chealander just explained to you. And he's covered everything pretty well. I'm going to be here and be available to try to answer some of the questions relative to how many shots were fired. There's a lot of questions that we cannot answer at this point. This whole incident is less than 24 hours old. We still have forensic people going through the vehicle with a fine-tooth comb to get every bit of evidence that we can. So there's probably going to be some questions relative to the shooting and how many shots were fired or how many times the suspect was hit that we can't answer. The autopsy is being conducted as we speak. And some of those questions will probably have to be answered at a later time.
So right now we are going to reserve some comments for your questions, at a later time. Thanks.
SPARKS: Captain Molina (ph) from the Bakersfield office of the California Highway Patrol will be available to answer your questions regarding the Highway Patrol's response to this.
Bonnie Hernandez, who is setting right here the animal control officer that notified Sergeant Francis Moore (ph) about seeing the vehicle. Bonnie will be available to answer questions if you have questions of her.
And our last speaker is Jack Hall, director of Central Valley Office for the governor's office -- Gray Davis -- Jack.
JACK HALL, DIRECTOR, CENTRAL VALLEY OFFICE: Thank you, Sheriff Sparks. Good morning, everyone.
It was just nine days ago that the governor convened in a Sacramento a meeting and ordered law enforcement to gather together and create this program, the amber alert system. Who knew that we would talk about the results this soon, of such a successful first- time out. This program is new. It is in its infancy. It is a knitting-together of some of our existing systems out there, expanding them into areas that were not participating in this type of alert system. And today, we stand and congratulate law enforcement, media, and statewide all officials who participate in the amber alert system.
The governor was quoted last week as saying that "with this system in place, we will save time and, hopefully, children's lives." We know the Marris and Brooks families can attest to that.
With that, I will be here to answer any questions also. Thank you.
QUESTION: Can we ask you right now how well you thought the system worked and why there was a five-hour delay? HALL: I would say that for the first time out, this is system evolving, we are progressing. The governor will be holding another meeting next week with his key law enforcement people statewide, because this system will improve. I think first time out, the record speaks for itself.
QUESTION: Do you have any changes that you are going to be recommending as you respond to yesterday?
HALL: The governor will be speaking with Sheriff Sparks, all his other confidantes from George Vinson (ph) to Spike Helmet (ph), our statewide leaders on law enforcement, regarding areas we do need to improve.
SPARKS: OK. We're open for questions. And you are going to have to give me a few minutes -- a few seconds when you ask me a question, because I will have to look around to see who is going to be available.
QUESTION: Sheriff, can you tell us why is it you believe what (OFF-MIKE)
SPARKS: First of all, he had already hurt the girls. There wasn't anything else to do there. He went to a remote area that he should have known he was going to be trapped in. That I think he saw the helicopters, and he recognized the helicopters, and he said, I've got to get rid of the girls. He was a two-striker. He was going to prison for the rest of his life. He had nothing to lose. He needed to get rid of those girls.
QUESTION: Had the girls said anything more about what they went through that you can talk about (OFF-MIKE)?
SPARKS: No. I haven't talked to the girls. So no, Carol (ph). I don't know if they have anything more to say or not.
QUESTION: Can you tell us about the deputies that were involved? They're long-term veterans?
SPARKS: I talk to both of them this morning and gave them orders they're not to talk to the media until after the shooting review at least. So there's not -- it's not going to do you any good to find -- I know you can find their telephone number. I had a media call me this morning on my wife's business phone. And the only way he could have -- he went down all the Sparks in the telephone book. So I know you can get to these deputies, but I'm just going to save you the time because I've ordered them not to talk to you until after at least the shooting review board.
Both deputies are long-term substation deputies. They live in the area. That's where they've spent most of their careers. So that was a positive. And for us, they knew the white blanket area, and they knew. If that had me in the sedan, when that Bronco or crossed where it went, I would have went right after, not realizing that that sedan would never go there. Those deputies knew that that Bronco wasn't going to make it through there. And they leg-bailed, and they did exactly what they should have done. They knew those sedans weren't going there.
QUESTION: Sheriff, should the officers have fired in this car not knowing where the girls were?
SPARKS: When a suspect points a gun at your partner -- and these guys are worked together a long time -- long time -- when a suspect points a gun at your partner, if there's anyway possible, you're going to protect him. The deputies did not know that the girls were in the back of the car. And if Jim Stratman (ph) would have hesitated and that suspect would have shot Larry Thatcher (ph), I don't know how Jim would have survived that. I think Jim did exactly what he needed to do.
SPARKS: Not that I'm aware of, Carol (ph), no. No.
CHEALANDER: Why the emotion?
SPARKS: Well, you talk to guys back here in uniform, and they'll tell you I'm an emotional guy. I have 38 years in this place. These people are my family. And we came very close to losing them.
And I understand the concern about the girls. I do. I understand the concern about the girls. But when that suspect pointed a gun at a deputy sheriff, he got exactly what he deserved. You don't point guns at Kern County's deputy sheriffs.
SPARKS: I haven't -- I got to go by policy and procedure here. I can't tell you what I really think. I have to go by policy and procedure.
QUESTION: Sure you can.
SPARKS: No, telling you what I really think has already got me in trouble. We have a shooting review board that this has to go in front of, and we need to look at all the information from the shooting review. But I can tell you already, I hugged both deputies and told them, "Way to go."
QUESTION: Sheriff, yesterday you made some comments about the girls being sexually assaulted (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Do you regret making those comments (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
SPARKS: You know, if I have offended the family in any way, I regret that. I understand there's some concern that the grandmother of one of the girls wants an apology from the sheriff. I can give her that apology in person. I can do it now. You know, what I meant at the time was to set to everybody the frame of mind of this suspect. He had already done what he wanted to do. Those girls were of no use to him, and he was finding a place to dump them. And if I've offended the girls or the family, I apologize for that. I certainly not mean to embarrass or hurt those girls in any way.
QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) from October, I guess, of last year? Hindsight being what it is (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
SPARKS: You know, Carol (ph), you can always go back. Hindsight is 100 percent. I mean, it is 100 percent. Sure. I bet you talk to those Rosemond deputies, and that's where this warrant came out of was Rosemond, and for you that don't know, that's in Kern County. That's a Kern County warrant. You bet. You bet. I bet they're saying, My God, if we just would have found him, if we had just looked a little harder. But this business is kind of like your business. You know, if you -- if you second guess yourself and you question yourself too much, you're got going to get your job done.
QUESTION: Sheriff, about that warrant, it was 3 million in bail. Why was the bail so high? Somebody saying that maybe this guy might have had a disease or something?
SPARKS: Now, I had heard that too, sir. But nobody has -- I haven't heard anybody say that is true. What I did hear was the reason the bail was so high on that warrant is the suspect had really hurt that girl. Really hurt her.
QUESTION: Also, he was -- he was known to the deputies, some of them, and lived only a couple blocks away at time or something. Is that true?
SPARKS: Now, I don't about the living close by. I know the deputies knew the suspect, and knew that he had been in that area before.
QUESTION: Do you know where he has been since the warrant was issued?
SPARKS: Boy, if we had known where he was, we would have arrested his butt, but we didn't know it.
QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) you know, we heard reports that his wife had said he had been on the run since last year.
SPARKS: I don't know. I am sure if we had information -- a $3 million warrant? This not L.A. A $3 million warrant is big warrant for us, and the guys would have been hunting for him.
QUESTION: Do you think he was completely away from this area?
SPARKS: We didn't see him. If we had saw him, we would have arrested him. We didn't see him -- Carol (ph).
QUESTION: Sheriff, I am curious how you were able to identify that this was Ratliff, because it seemed like even hours after...
SPARKS: Well, I am glad you asked that question because I can now turn the mic over to somebody else.
SODERBERG: The suspect was identified by three or four different methods, actually, that came together almost at the same time. He had hijacked a car out of Las Vegas. There was a physical description of the suspect out of Las Vegas, composite drawing. There was some information from family members, his family, when they saw the vehicle, the Saturn, the 1999 Saturn that was left at the crime scene, which was hijacked out of Las Vegas. People who knew about that Saturn and who was driving that Saturn came forward and told us who that person was. It didn't take very long for the FBI office out of Las Vegas, the sheriff's department in Los Angeles, the sheriff's department in Kern County, to make a couple of telephone calls and voila, we had a rap sheet and $3 million bail warrant. We had the composite drawings from the victims, which generally matched the composite drawing from the carjacking in Las Vegas. We had a picture of the suspect because he has been in jail a number of times. It didn't take very long for us to put that together.
QUESTION: Can we actually speak with Bonnie, one of the people that alerted...
SPARKS: I asked her before and she said she would be available to answer questions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, Bonnie, up to the mic.
BONNIE HERNANDEZ, ANIMAL CONTROL OFFICER: I've got to get back to work. Hello.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell us what you were doing and how you came across this guy.
HERNANDEZ: I was en route to some calls that I had pending in Ridgecrest from (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and I had been listening to what was going on ever since I started duty about 6:30 in the morning on my scanner. And when I heard that the CHP units were coming from both directions and that the last place that they were assuming, or I thought they had actually seen them, I was wrong on that, but the last place was in the Canebrake area. I know that area really well. I pass the White Blanket every day, and I have never ever seen any activity down there whatsoever. It is heavily wooded. Very, very thick. There is a river and a lot of bush. And I had heard that they had the airship over the Chimney Peak area, which is about three or four miles east of that location. And I spotted it just by chance. I mean, God did it. The shape of it, it was quite a distance away, maybe half a mile to a mile. The shape, the color, again, never any activity in that particular area. My assumption was -- I high tailed it to Inyokern and got a hold of the officer there, and in turn he got onto the radio straight away, and airship was there, Larry (ph) and Jim (ph) were there, and that was it.
QUESTION: They are calling you a hero. What do you think about that?
HERNANDEZ: No, I just did what anybody else would have done, and I am just grateful that the girls are all right.
QUESTION: But knowing what a crucial part you played in this, what goes through your heart today?
HERNANDEZ: I am just glad that it happened quick, and the gentleman is no longer going to be a threat, and that the girls were OK.
QUESTION: What will say to the girls if you see them today?
HERNANDEZ: Don't be out so late at night.
QUESTION: When you saw that car and it hit you that this could be the vehicle, what went through your mind right then?
HERNANDEZ: To get my little fanny up to Ridgecrest ASAP and notify them.
QUESTION: How long did that take? How far is that?
HERNANDEZ: Probably 20 to 25 minutes, and I was fortunate that the deputy was in Inyokern at the time.
QUESTION: Don't you have a radio in your truck?
HERNANDEZ: Well, I do have a radio, but during certain hours we don't have communication with Control One, and I didn't want to just go over the air on our department's -- I just didn't want too much traffic going on another frequency.
QUESTION: How far away was the car apprehended from where you spotted it? Or was it the same spot?
HERNANDEZ: Actually, I saw them going into the -- well, they had already gotten into the reservation area quite a distance.
QUESTION: Was he past the bridge?
HERNANDEZ: See, I -- I am not quite sure of that. I assume he was where all the media was yesterday. Physically saw the entire vehicle first, and I -- don't know, so I went, turned around, went back up on the high spot where I could get a better view, and just saw them going in and again knowing the area, there is no way anybody would ever see him.
QUESTION: But was it then right where you saw them where this all ended?
HERNANDEZ: No,. It would have been probably about a mile and half further down the road.
QUESTION: And Bonnie, were you listening to the scanner...
HERNANDEZ: Yes, ma'am.
QUESTION: ... to make sure that you were doing your part or... HERNANDEZ: Actually, I carry the scanner for my own purposes. I like to know, prior to getting dispatched, when the other agencies need our service, so can I get there a little bit quicker than waiting on dispatch. And there -- I have got to tell you, every agency in Kern County, we all work together, and it is just wonderful. It is like little family. You know, we don't always know everybody we're dealing with, but we got to help our own.
QUESTION: Can you just describe one more time where you were and how you spotted them?
HERNANDEZ: Coming -- I was going eastbound on Highway 178 in the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) area. I was up on a little bit of a ridge on the road before it dips down and flattens out and then there is no way you would see anything. And I would have to say the vehicle was half a mile to maybe a mile as the crow flies.
HERNANDEZ: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I'll be the Seeing Eye dog.
SPARKS: Good. Nail him, Carol (ph), nail him. He got off way too easy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was hoping to get off easy.
QUESTION: Sergeant, how many shots did each deputy fire.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the deputies fired nine shots, the other fired eight.
QUESTION: Do we know yet how many hit the (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't know. We will know after the autopsy.
QUESTION: Did the suspect fire any shots?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't know that yet either. It was getting laid out there. We pulled the car out of the ravine, which took quite a bit of time, put it on a flatbed truck, and we drove it back here to our facility so we would have the time to go through that with a fine-tooth comb.
QUESTION: And have weapons from the suspect been recovered?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are two weapons in one is .38-caliber Colt revolver, six-shot. The other is a .22-caliber Colt semiautomatic, .22-caliber revolver. And both of those weapons are were reported stolen earlier this year.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are still checking. QUESTION: On the face of this, does it appear to be a clean shooting?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will be involved somewhat in the shooting review board, so until all of the information is in and all of the witnesses have been talked to, I am not going to make a statement of what I think. I have to go by policy also.
QUESTION: But with the limited information that you have at this point, does it looks like these deputies are going to be in the clear?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.
QUESTION: Did the suspect ever fire a weapon?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was asked before, and we can't make that determination right now. We do have both of the weapons. We are trying to go through those to determine whether or not they have been fired. We need to go through the vehicles to look for shell casings. We are doing that now.
QUESTION: Will it be hard to recover shell casings from the scene? I mean, if he's shooting out of the car, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it depends. If from a semiautomatic pistol, if the shells eject to the outside, where there's soft ground, very difficult to recover those shell casings. Of course, if it is from inside of the vehicle, it shouldn't be a problem; it should be contained within vehicle.
QUESTION: Were the girls in the back seat of the Bronco or back in cab part?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. I have not had opportunity to interview either one of the girls now. They have been with L.A. County sheriff's personnel, talking to them, trying to clear up what had happened since the time that they were kidnapped. We will have an opportunity, I hope, later today to talk to the girls.
QUESTION: Were they bound in any way?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When -- it is my understanding when they escaped, actually, from that truck that there was duct tape residue and duct tape still on their body. So at the time they weren't completely bound -- obviously, they were able to make good their escape -- but yes, there is absolute evidence that they were bound.
QUESTION: Sheriff, I have a question about the girls. As far as their spirits, what they went through, what can you say about this them?
SPARKS: I think I will let Commander Chealander. He probably expressed that the best.
Do you mind talking about the expression? CHEALANDER: I was about four minutes behind the actual shooting coming up the dirt road to the location. And upon my arrival, one of the deputies was with the two girls. Obviously, my attention was right towards them to see what kind of condition they were in. As I stand. Then my attention went down to the vehicle where the other deputy was attending to the suspect.
Once I made a determination that girls were -- appeared to be physically in good condition, I ran down to render the deputy who was at the suspect vehicle assistance, because that suspect, he was still in an engaging position. There was limited manpower there; we needed to take care of business at hand.
To make long story short and get to your question, once I was able to get back to the girls and talk to them, briefly, to get a feel for what happened and how they were doing and actually converse with them in more detail, I saw in their eyes, on their face, heard in their voice inflection and whatnot, the terror that they had experienced as an emotion for the duration of this ordeal. Yet I saw a sparkle come in their eyes and faint little smiles come on their faces regarding our presence there and being freed from the situation that they were in. It was -- the own way I can describe it, it was the full gamut of emotions wrapped into one look or one picture. It sent chills up and down my spine.
And I have made couple of comments to some people recounting this story numerous times now. In law enforcement -- I have been here for 27 years -- in law enforcement, there are just a few times when you have that feeling. And that's what we are here for. We are here for the victims, we are here as public servants, to save lives and protect lives and protect property. And that feeling that overcomes you is fleeting in this business because you deal with so much and so much scourge, as far as crime goes. But that feeling there is unique, and you never forget it. And I had that feeling probably just a handful of times, and that was one of them. It was an amazing feeling, and we are just so happy, as I said a minute ago, that the outcome was good for these girl and their family, and that everything went well.
SPARKS: See why I had him come up and explain that.
Any more questions?
OK. We are done. If you guys need anybody up here one-on-one, they are available and will be available until you guys leave.
PHILLIPS: That's Kern County Sheriff Carl Sparks. If you missed sorts of an emotional, actually, part of this news conference out of Kern County, the sheriff welled up with tears and said that he was just so proud of his deputies with what they did and that Roy Ratliff, the man that kidnapped those two young teens, deserved exactly what he got. Plain and simple. The sheriff giving a very emotional testimony.
Also we heard from Bonnie Hernandez, being hailed the hero. She said I just did whatever I was going to do. And that she was the one that first spotted the Bronco. She was working for Kern County Animal Control -- that's her job. She was out on that reservation area, spotted the Bronco and notified authorities.
Then this is how the shoot-out all went down. We finally heard from the commander Hal Chealander with Kern County Sheriff's Department, and this is how he explained things went down: There was an exchange of words once the sheriff deputies got to the Bronco. There was an exchange of words with Roy Ratliff and the deputies here on the scene on the reservation. Officers engaged the suspect and demanded that he surrender. The suspect then reached in his back seat, went for his gun, pointed it ate deputies. Deputies demanded that he put the gun down, demanded that he surrender. That did not happen. And that's when shots were fired and the suspect was killed.
At that moment, the girls jumped out from the back of the Bronco and ran directly to the deputies. And the commander once again saying not only did he see terror in their eyes, but such a glimmer of hope and relief also to see those officers.
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