Preliminary investigation finds deputy was justified in shooting
In the course of searching for a prowler on the Bishop Paiute Reservation on the morning of Friday, August 26, Inyo County Sheriff’s Deputies were alerted to a possible domestic violence altercation. According to the police report, deputies knew that the alleged suspect, Raymond Bencoma III, had a past record which included violence. The deputies said they walked toward the residence where Bencoma was known to be, down a dark driveway with body cameras turned off, as is procedure (a red light on the camera glows, like a bullseye in the dark). According to the report, this is what happened next: A deputy saw movement out of the corner of his eye when a motion sensor light came on and Bencoma appeared from behind an outbuilding, pointing a semi-automatic hand gun at the deputies. A deputy then fired seven rounds, striking Bencoma at least twice.
Inyo County Undersheriff Jeff Hollowell explained that, following further investigation, there are more details than had been disclosed in the initial press release. He told The Sheet that deputies were in the Winuba Lane area responding to a call of a prowler with a flashlight, not on “routine patrol” as earlier reported. The deputies came across a female, but she left without engaging the deputies further. She did not “flag down” the deputies, as reported earlier.
As deputies continued searching for the prowler, the female subject appeared again with visible injuries consistent with domestic violence trauma.
As per department protocol, the deputies’ body cameras were not turned on during the approach to the residence, Hollowell explained, because of the danger of the red light. Deputies do turn their cameras on once there is light, Hollowell said, but there was no time to turn them on between the time the motion sensor lights came on and Bencoma allegedly pointing the pistol.
Bencoma is recovering, according to Hollowell, and he should be released into custody within the next few days. His current whereabouts are being withheld.