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Investigation concludes deputy shooting was justified

Dan McDonald
Managing Editor
2/14/2014

 

The Plumas County sheriff’s deputy who shot and killed a hospital patient after a violent struggle acted in self-defense and the defense of others.

That was the finding of an investigation conducted by the Plumas County District Attorney’s Office.

The investigation report, which was completed Jan. 27 and released to the public last week, concluded that deputy Tom Klundby acted lawfully in the Oct. 20, 2013, fatal shooting of 53-year-old Mariano Mauro at Eastern Plumas Health Care in Portola.

“Had Tom not been there, or had Tom been disabled (during the struggle with Mauro) there was a legitimate concern by that hospital staff as to what could have happened,” District Attorney David Hollister said.

“The overwhelming credible evidence shows Deputy Klundby acted in self-defense and the defense of others …” Hollister said. “No evidence exists to support any contention the shooting was criminal.”

The DA’s office outlined its findings during a Wednesday, Feb. 5, press conference at its office in the Quincy courthouse.

The California Department of Justice, California Highway Patrol and the sheriff’s office assisted in the investigation.

In addition to an 18-page report, chief investigator Jeff Wilkinson showed video evidence taken about two hours after the 1:20 a.m. shooting.

The written report is available in its entirety on the Plumas County website (http://bit.ly/1biibKg).

The video showed a trail of blood spots and debris left by the struggle that began outside Mauro’s room and ended with the fatal shots fired in the hospital lobby.

Klundby, who responded to a 911 call from a hospital staffer, was the only officer at the scene.

An agitated Mauro, whose aggressive behavior prompted the 911 call, attacked Klundby shortly after the deputy arrived. What followed was a battle between two large, strong men.

The 6-foot-3-inch, 240-pound deputy, who served in the Marine Corps, wasn’t able to restrain the 6-1, 283-pound Mauro.

During the battle, Mauro managed to get ahold of Klundby’s Taser and baton. He also managed to fire a shot after getting a hand on the deputy’s holstered gun while the two men were on the ground.

Despite repeated warnings that the deputy was going to shoot him, Mauro swung the baton at Klundby’s head, missing the deputy’s face by inches.

Klundby responded by firing four shots in rapid succession, striking the spinning Mauro in the middle, and upper left side of his back.

A doctor at the hospital checked Mauro moments after the shooting and pronounced him dead.

When asked why it took more than three months to complete the investigation, Hollister said his office’s protocol required him to wait until he received the results of Mauro’s toxicology report.

He said that the investigation was essentially complete after a few weeks. But it took an additional two months to get the toxicology report from Washoe County, Nev.

Hollister said Mauro’s toxicology wouldn’t have changed his decision to rule the deputy’s shooting justified.

The toxicology delay meant a delay in Klundby being officially and publicly cleared of any wrongdoing. Hollister said the wait for the toxicology report was frustrating. But he said he isn’t going to change the way his office works.

“I don’t plan to change the protocol,” he said. “I can’t imagine scenarios that are more serious than this. We need to be deliberate; we need to be thorough. And when we do make an announcement, it needs to be something that the public can have confidence in.

“The sheriff’s office has been very patient with us. They know the basis for the delays and it is one of the areas that are really out of our control.”

Sheriff Greg Hagwood said he understood the DA’s need to be thorough.

“Obviously we all wanted this information to come out as quickly as possible,” Hagwood said. “But it was worth the wait. I’m very pleased.”

However, Hagwood said he didn’t wait for the investigation report to become public before returning Klundby to active duty. The sheriff said he had no doubt that Klundby saved lives at the hospital.

“I absolutely believe that he acted legally and appropriately,” Hagwood said. “Bringing him back (to active duty) was a statement of how strongly I believe that.”

 

Mauro’s toxicology

Mauro tested positive for the drugs diazepam, nordiazepam and hydrocodone.

Hagwood said the fact that there were no drugs in Mauro’s system associated with causing violent behavior was very telling.

“He had a history of violent behavior,” Hagwood said. “I don’t think he needed drugs to be violent.”

Mauro, who had felony convictions for arson in 1992 and spouse abuse in 1999, was arrested several times during that time span. He had numerous contacts with Plumas County law enforcement officers since 2007.

According to the investigation report, Mauro had 115 contacts with the sheriff’s office. In 20 of those contacts he was listed as a suspect.

 

Mauro arrives at EPHC

Editor’s note: In order to protect the identities of the four hospital staff members who were interviewed during the investigation, they are identified as Nurse 1, Nurse 2, Nurse’s Aide and ER Doctor.

Mariano Mauro arrived at the emergency room about 8 a.m. on Oct. 19, 2013, complaining of chest pain. Two hours later, he was admitted into the hospital for observation.

Mauro became agitated after an 8 p.m. visit by a woman, Kristina Perkins, who was identified as his girlfriend. She was reportedly there to give Mauro his car keys.

Mauro argued with Perkins and accused her of stealing from him. He dumped out the contents of her purse and found a pack of cigarettes and lighter that he said were his. He kept them and the keys.

After Perkins left, Mauro spent a lot of time on the phone.

About 8:30 p.m., he began asking Nurse 1 for Valium, saying that he couldn’t sleep without the drug. A half-hour later, Nurse 1 gave Mauro the Valium and the nurse said he appeared to calm down.

About 10 p.m., Nurse’s Aide went to Mauro’s room after the room’s call light came on. The call light was activated because his pulse was elevated. Nurse’s Aide discovered Mauro had cut his wrist with a 2-inch knife attached to his key chain.

Although the cut was described as “superficial” with just a drop of blood, Mauro was then considered a danger to himself and was placed on a suicide watch. After ER Doctor treated Mauro, Nurse’s Aide stayed to keep an eye on him.

Mauro said he was not trying to kill himself, but was attempting to make his girlfriend feel bad.

Nurse 1 spoke with a worker from the county mental health department and it was decided she would visit Mauro the following morning. Nurse 1 told the mental health worker that Mauro would be monitored by hospital staff, so it wasn’t necessary for mental health to respond that night.

At 12:30 a.m., Mauro called Nurse 1 to his room and said he had “the worst headache of his life.” He had been asking for Dilaudid (an opioid pain medication) to be added to his IV. Nurse 1 told Mauro he wouldn’t be getting Dilaudid. Nurse 1 offered to provide Norco (an opioid pain medication mixed with Tylenol). Mauro refused the Norco and insisted on Dilaudid. A few minutes later Nurse’s Aide told Nurse 1 that Mauro was getting dressed to leave the hospital.

Nurse 1 told Mauro he couldn’t leave until he was seen by someone from mental health.

At 12:48 a.m., Nurse 2 called the sheriff’s office to report the problem with Mauro. She called 911 again at 12:59 a.m. to say Mauro had barricaded himself in the room using chairs against the doors. Nurse 2 said Mauro then broke a window in the door with his elbow. He threw a pitcher of water and glass at the broken window toward Nurse 1.

 

Strange behavior

Hospital staffers interviewed during the investigation said that Mauro was upset after his girlfriend left. He asked for Dilaudid about every hour and grew more agitated each time it was refused.

Nurse’s Aide was with him continually from about 10 p.m. until shortly after the sheriff’s office was called for help. Nurse’s Aide said it was obvious Mauro was “off the wall.”

Nurse’s Aide said that it seemed as though there was a lot of drama surrounding Mauro. There were numerous phone calls from his friends and neighbors.

On at least two occasions he asked hospital staffers to look for his car in the parking lot. He suspected his girlfriend had stolen it from him.

Nurse’s Aide said Mauro told “weird” and “whacky” stories that were inappropriate and made the nurse feel uncomfortable.

Nurse 1 said that Mauro was very animated, speaking almost incessantly to Nurse’s Aide. Nurse 1 said he showed no signs of inebriation despite having enough medication in him to make a normal person “incredibly wasted.”

Mauro told Nurse’s Aide he killed his three brothers-in-law and had “fought with the cops lots of times.” He told Nurse’s Aide he killed a raccoon by punching it in the face.

 

The deputy responds

Deputy Klundby arrived at EPHC alone about 1 a.m. He was told that Mauro, who had hepatitis C, had cut himself and that Klundby needed to put on gloves.

A nurse briefed Klundby on the situation and Mauro’s mental state.

When the deputy got to the room, he met with Nurse 1 and then tried to talk to Mauro, who was leaning against the door with his left arm out the broken window.

Mauro was wrapped in a blanket and had shards of glass in his hand.

When Klundby asked Mauro what was going on, he said a nurse stole his drugs and Nurse 1 wouldn’t give him drugs.

Klundby said he stayed back from the door. He said Mauro was slashing at him and flicking blood in his direction.

The deputy told Mauro that he needed to calm down and that other units were on the way.

Nurse 2 said Klundby could be heard calling for backup on his radio. Nurse 2 said Klundby used the word “expedite” during the call.

Mauro told Klundby, “You’ve never rolled with someone like me. … I’m leaving and there ain’t a damn thing you can do about it.”

Klundby said he advised Mauro he was under arrest and that he needed to go along with the program.

 

A violent struggle

Nurse 1 said that is when Mauro opened the door and “bull-rushed” the deputy.

Klundby grabbed the charging Mauro by the front of the shirt and threw him to the ground. Klundby said Mauro went to his hands and knees and he jumped on Mauro’s back.

Nurse 1 said Klundby was trying to put handcuffs on Mauro.

Klundby kneed Mauro in the rear end and Mauro went down on his stomach. Klundby tried to use his weight to keep Mauro down but said Mauro “was just doing pushups” with the deputy on his back.

He tried to knock Mauro’s arm outward, but Mauro just got back up.

After Mauro made it to his knees again, Klundby took him to the ground again but couldn’t contain him.

Mauro again got up and Klundby pushed him into the bathing room area and fell on top of Mauro.

Mauro managed to unholster Klundby’s Taser and pointed it at Klundby’s face. The deputy grabbed the weapon and pointed it at Mauro’s face.

During a battle of strength over the Taser, Klundby said he could see Mauro was trying to release the Taser’s safety switch. Klundby said he pushed on the Taser and it broke in half, causing the battery to fall out.

When Mauro realized the Taser was broken, he said to Klundby “you son of a bitch” and the fight continued.

Klundby said he managed to get himself upright. With one knee on Mauro’s back, he attempted to call for help on his radio. But he wasn’t sure if the transmission had gone out.

Mauro was able to get back to his feet and the two struggling men ended up in the nurses’ station.

Klundby said that since Mauro had already tried to use his Taser, and because of the nature of the violence involved, he again threw Mauro to the ground. Again, the deputy wasn’t able to restrain Mauro.

Klundby said he was now concerned for the safety of the nurses and any patients who might be in the nearby long-term care wing. So he stood up, removed his baton and told Mauro that if he didn’t get to the ground he was going to hit him.

He said Mauro looked him in the eyes and said, “go ahead.”

Klundby struck Mauro’s shin as hard as he could. But the blow had no effect. Nurse 1 told Klundby that Mauro had knee braces on his legs and the baton wouldn’t stop him.

Nurse 1 said Klundby then struck Mauro in the torso and upper body below the head. The deputy didn’t recall the upper-body blows during his statement.

Mauro moved toward the door leading from the nurses’ station to the lobby. Klundby grabbed him and they “busted” through the doors with the deputy again landing on top of Mauro.

Klundby said he decided to get rid of the baton because it was a hindrance and he couldn’t use both hands.

The deputy threw the baton toward the doors they had just come through. But Klundby said the door was closing and the baton bounced off the door and back toward them.

At that point, Klundby said he heard “what sounded like a cannon going off.” Mauro had his hand on the deputy’s gun and holster.

Klundby said he reached down and trapped Mauro’s hand. As he was trying to peel Mauro’s hand of the gun, Mauro said “I’m gonna get you mother (expletive).”

Klundby said he pulled Mauro’s hand off the gun and stood up, drawing the weapon from its holster.

Mauro managed to pick up the baton that had bounced off the closing door.

The two were standing face to face, Klundby holding the gun and Mauro the baton.

The shooting

Klundby said he pointed his gun at Mauro and ordered him to “put down the baton or I’m gonna shoot you.”

The deputy said Mauro just looked at him, so he pulled the trigger. The gun made a “click” sound but didn’t fire.

Klundby then realized that during the struggle Mauro had ejected the gun’s magazine.

Mauro said, “I (expletive)-up your (expletive) mother (expletive).”

As Klundby put another magazine in the weapon, Mauro started heading for the front exit door.

“Mariano, stop,” Klundby said. “Put the baton down, get on your face or I’m gonna shoot you.”

Klundby said Mauro turned and swung the baton at his face. The deputy was able to step back and the baton missed his face by about 8 inches.

Mauro did a 180-degree turn. Klundby said he wasn’t sure if Mauro’s turn was caused by the momentum from swinging the baton or if he was turning to head out the door.

The deputy said he fired three shots (the autopsy showed Mauro was stuck with four bullets), and Mauro fell face down in between the two glass doors.

 

Suspect down

Klundby immediately holstered his weapon and placed Mauro in handcuffs. He then radioed “shots fired, suspect down.”

He said he rolled Mauro over onto his back and started yelling for help.

One of the nurses called for an ambulance.

ER Doctor arrived and at 1:20 a.m. checked Mauro for signs of life. The doctor said, “You can cancel the ambulance, he is gone.”

Nurse 1 said Klundby looked pale and appeared to be dazed.

 

The decision to shoot

When an investigator asked Klundby if he thought he should have done anything different, the deputy said “no.”

When asked why he discharged his weapon, Klundby said he was in fear for his life. And he was afraid that because Mauro was so enraged, if he got away with the baton other people would be in danger.

Klundby said he was also afraid that if Mauro was able to overpower him, others in the hospital would be in danger.

 

Previous encounters

Klundby told investigators that he had dealt with Mauro numerous times while on duty.

He said many of the encounters involved Mauro complaining that someone had stolen his marijuana.

Klundby said he had never seen Mauro in this frame of mind.

Klundby said other deputies have dealt with Mauro. He said the encounters were usually because Mauro lost his medications or was trying to get medications.

He said Mauro had a reputation of being very strong, and that when he gets mad he “loses his mind” and does not think straight.


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