Witness to Arcata Plaza shootout comes forward


ARCATA, Calif. - Investigators are still putting the pieces together from a shooting that occurred in the early hours this past Saturday at the Arcata Plaza that left one man dead and a police officer injured.

A report from the Arcata Police Department said that 26-year-old Ervin Sweat from Antioch, Tennessee was the first to open fire.

"There appears to be two rounds from Sweat, and then officer O'Donovan and officer Altic fired a total of nine shots." Arcata Police Chief Tom Chapman said.

A man who is choosing to remain anonymous said he was driving the car Sweat was riding in that night. He said he met Sweat that same evening through mutual friends.

"One minute we're all hanging out, having a good time, and the next minute somebody, who's in my car, is shooting at police," He said.

He said everything started when police questioned people at the plaza about reports of a fight. He said police approached his truck as he stepped outside for a cigarette.

"I saw officers surrounding my truck from both sides," He said. "So I just stood there and watched one officer on the driver's side and the other on the passenger's side."

He said he was about 10 feet away from Sweat when bullets started flying.

"The door in the back opened and they noticed that he had a firearm on him," He said. "They started yelling and he tried to get away and he started to fall down, he then spun around and shot at the police officer and he shot back."

He said everything happened in a matter of seconds, he was not able to process what was happening right in front of his eyes.

"I just see one officer standing over him, returning fire and another officer standing on the sidewalk," He said.

He said crowds of people began running towards the scene, with multiple versions of the account already surfacing amongst them. He said that is one of the reasons he decided to step forward with what he saw.

"I just felt that there wasn't a need for this situation to turn into a race thing and turn into something that it's not," the driver said. "It was simply a situation of a man who decided to shoot at a police officer and they shot him."

Leading the investigation is the Humboldt County Critical Response Team. Arcata City Manager, Karen Diemer, said the Arcata Police Department and University Police will not take part of the investigation. This is in an effort to maintain transparency, leaving the agencies under investigation outside of the case.

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