By Ryan Sabalow
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Jeffory Shook, who was arrested last week in Siskiyou County after escaping from a prisoner fire crew, is not the kind of model inmate state and local firefighters increasingly have come to rely on while battling the north state’s wildfires.
Detectives say the 36-year-old former Lincoln man is friends with members of the Aryan Brotherhood white supremacist prison gang. Twice he has been shot and wounded by police after leading officers on dangerous, out-of-control car chases.
And, detectives say, he once tried to run over a police officer.
Yet the inmate, who Placer County Sheriff Ed Bonner once called “one of the most violent and dangerous suspects we’ve encountered in a long time,” ended up fighting fires as part of a minimum-security Northern California inmate fire crew.
And last month he did what detectives say he’d done countless times before.
On July 7, Shook, who wasn’t eligible for parole until 2013, fled the Washington Ridge Conservation Camp in Nevada City.
Margaret Pieper, a spokeswoman at the minimum-security facility, said Shook ran off when one of the corrections officers assigned to the fire camp spotted him using a cell phone, which are banned in the state’s prison system.
After leading U.S. Marshals, parole agents and detectives on a four-county manhunt, he was found last week at a trailer park in Happy Camp in Siskiyou County, said Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Capt. Jim Betts.
Detectives had received tips he’d holed up with his Aryan Brotherhood associates he’d met in prison, Betts said.
When officers closed in for the arrest, Shook tried to take off in a pickup that had been reported stolen on Aug. 1 in Red Bluff, Betts said.
Shook eventually gave up without a fight when detectives pinned the truck in, Betts said.
Officials at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said Shook’s violent criminal background and propensity for escape are exactly what they try to avoid when picking the best of the state’s prisoners to join the 4,228 inmates working on hand crews stationed at the state’s 44 inmate fire camps.
“They do tend to be the better-behaved, lower-risk inmates,” said Paul Verke, a CDCR spokesman.
Verke said the inmate hand crews have proven to be an invaluable asset in fire-prone California. The inmates are the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s only hand crews, Verke said.
Inmates typically earn $1 per hour and can earn up to two days off their sentence for every day they work fighting fires. Inmates work an average of 10 million work hours per year, saving taxpayers more than $80 million annually.
“On some of the larger fires of 2009, inmates were approximately 80 percent of the firefighting effort,” Verke said.
There are a handful of inmate fire camps in the north state including the Sugar Pine Conservation Camp just a few miles east of Redding on Highway 299.
Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, said the community should be alarmed that violence-prone inmates like Shook could be fighting fires this summer near their homes.
“This is very serious,” he said.
Nielsen, a vocal critic of the state’s prison and parole system and former president of the state’s Board of Parole and Prison Terms, said Tuesday that he’s going to look into why Shook was placed into a low-security camp even though he had such a violent — and escape-prone — past.
Nielsen said he suspects Shook was placed in the camp as part of the state’s effort to reduce the number of incarcerated inmates in the prison system, but he acknowledged it could have been just a mistake.
Pieper said authorities didn’t know of Shook’s violent history or his altercations with officers since he wasn’t officially convicted of any of those crimes.
“Hindsight is 20-20,” Pieper said.
She said there was “no documentation in Shook’s file” that he was a member or associate of the Aryan Brotherhood.
“If he had been, he would not have been eligible for fire camp placement, and he would have been housed in Pelican Bay State Prison,” Pieper said.
In 2006, Shook was convicted by plea bargain on joint charges filed in Placer and Sutter counties. He’d initially been accused of auto theft, methamphetamine possession and for trying to run down a Placer County sheriff’s detective in Yuba City in 2005.
In the Yuba City incident, a detective shot Shook in the arm when Shook swerved his car at the detective, according to Betts and news reports.
Betts said Shook also had previously been shot by deputies in Orange County.
Lt. Jeffrey Ausnow, a spokesman for the Placer County Sheriff’s Department, said that detectives in the county east of Sacramento knew Shook all too well and that they had chased him numerous times.
“He’s a very dangerous individual who has no regard for citizens’ safety,” Ausnow said. “He would do anything to try to escape custody.”
This parolee was on parole for a “non-violent” “non-serious” offense, 186.22(a) felony gang activity.
Heather Limestahl / Tricia Takasugi
Placentia (myfoxla.com) – A 25-year-old gang member on parole who allegedly killed his girlfriend inside her Placentia home while her young children were there was at large Saturday.
Miguel Alexander Vargas of Placentia allegedly stabbed Annette Alvarado, 23, multiple times about 10:30 p.m. Thursday at her home in the 1600 block of La Paloma Avenue near North Van Buren Street, said Placentia police Detective Corinne Loomas.
She was pronounced dead at Placentia Linda Hospital, Loomas said.
Relatives inside the home told investigators the woman was attacked by Vargas.
No one else was injured, including the victim’s 5- and 3-year-old children, Loomas said.
A man at the scene who said he was a cousin of the victim named Rey Perez told City News Service that the couple had children together.
After the attack, Vargas left the home and jumped into the passenger seat of a friend’s car parked outside — a white 2003 Acura, said Placentia police Sgt. Kelley Kenehan.
The two fled, and a short time later, Vargas demanded that his friend get out of the car near La Palma Avenue and Tustin Street in Anaheim and threatened to hurt him if he didn’t, Kenehan said. The friend did as he was told and Vargas drove off, he said.
Vargas is a gang member on parole, said Kenehan. He is Latino, 5 feet 6 inches and about 190 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes, according to police.
He was last seen driving the two-door Acura, California license plate 5SFY351. The car has a distinct large spoiler on its rear, the sergeant added.
Anyone who may have spotted the Acura or Vargas was urged to call police at (714) 993-8164 .