Placerville police shot and killed a woman Sunday morning who they said stole an ambulance from a local hospital and led them on a short chase before ramming three patrol cars in a nearby driveway.
"We believe she used the ambulance as a weapon, and the officers were in danger," said Placerville Police Chief George Nielsen.
The woman, who was approximately 40 years old, was wearing a hospital gown, Nielsen said. Authorities were not releasing her name pending notification of relatives, he said.
The woman left Marshall Hospital through an emergency room entrance and took an El Dorado County ambulance that was parked there, the police chief said.
The medical center, on Marshall Way near downtown Placerville, is the main hospital in town and serves much of rural El Dorado County.
Hospital spokesman Don Davis said patient privacy laws prevented him from discussing anything about the patient's reason for being in the hospital. He referred all calls to police.
A hospital employee said staff members had been instructed not to speak about the matter.
The situation began at about 10:12 a.m., when police received a report of a stolen ambulance, Nielsen said. Three patrol cars responded and followed the woman on a brief pursuit through area streets, he said.
The shooting occurred at 10:19 a.m. after the woman pulled into a residential driveway in the 3000 block of Cedar Ravine Road and put the ambulance into reverse. She smashed into the patrol cars with "a lot of force," the police chief said.
Her actions put the officers in fear for their safety, he said.
One officer fired his sidearm, Nielsen said, striking the woman and killing her. It remained unclear if the officer was out of his car at the time of the shooting, the chief said.
Tim Wilson, 17, lives across the street. He said he heard four gunshots and ran outside. Wilson said police had quickly taped off the area.
A woman he didn't recognize was being placed on a stretcher, he said. Wilson said the woman was wearing a hospital gown.
Other neighbors, including Carol Seibert, said they heard shots. Seibert lives three doors down from the driveway where the shooting occurred. She said the driveway the patient pulled into is often mistaken for a side street.
"You don't normally hear gunshots around here," Seibert said.
A task force of investigators from the El Dorado County Sheriff's Office, the El Dorado County District Attorney's Office, the Placerville Police Department and other local agencies had been at the scene all day Sunday and were expected to remain into the night, Nielsen said.
Cedar Ravine Road remained closed in the block between Pacific Street and Thompson Way, a tree-lined neighborhood of historic homes.
Investigators were still trying to unravel the circumstances around the shooting, and many details remained uncertain, Nielsen said. He expected more information to be available today.
Read the full story at the Sacramento Bee.