Redding NPU arrests shine light on bigger issue fueling crime


REDDING, Calif. - One woman remains in jail after the Redding Police Department's Neighborhood Police Unit went undercover to watch over Hilltop Drive parking lots Tuesday night.

Just after sundown, NPU spotted 26-year-old Joshua Ellis attempting to break into a car in the La Quinta Inn parking lot. Police say Ellis is homeless and admitted to checking for unlocked vehicles in motel parking lots to support his drug habit.

While making that bust, NPU discovered the car Ellis was breaking into was flagged for red light violations. The vehicle was also considered overdue, meaning the vehicle was taken in good terms but was never returned and was reported stolen.

While arresting Ellis, officers said William Ashmun, 25, and Elizabeth Schwerin, 26, came out of their room at the La Quinta and walked towards the car. Officers said after speaking with the two, they searched their room and found meth and heroin.

Although the crimes were unrelated, police later found the three knew each other.

"They didn't know that we had Ellis detained in the back of the patrol car. When interviewing them, and doing a cell phone search, we realized they had a contact for Ellis. So, we began questioning them about Ellis and they started asking us questions like 'what does he have to do with anything?'," said NPU Officer Jonathan Sheldon. "So we told them that we caught him trying to break into the vehicle and they started laughing because they were associates in the drug world with him."

Ashmun was arrested on drug charges, Schwerin on an outstanding warrant. Police say these busts symbolize the broader issue fueling crime.

"The heroin and methamphetamine addiction has kind of evolved into being looked at as a mental health issue or a medical issue," Officer Sheldon said. "California has decreased these crimes from felonies to misdemeanors and punishments are changing from jail time to rehabilitation time."

Ellis and Ashmun were released from the Shasta County Jail and Schwerin remains in custody and is being held without bail.

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