More details emerge in officer-involved shooting near Citrus Heights motel

Ranch Motel
Ranch Motel, Citrus Heights. // Image credit: Google Street View

Sentinel staff report–
Citrus Heights police released additional details on Wednesday about an officer-involved shooting that occurred near the Ranch Motel on Sunday, stating that the officer knew the suspect was armed and under the influence of drugs prior to shots being fired.

Although details about what led up to the shooting were not immediately disclosed in a news release issued shortly after the incident, police said on Wednesday that the solo officer involved had initiated contact with a man and woman in the Ranch Motel parking lot on Auburn Boulevard around 2:45 a.m. Sunday and saw evidence related to the sale of illegal drugs. The officer also observed the man, later identified as 24-year-old Nickolas Russo, “displaying objective signs and symptoms of being under the influence of a controlled substance.”

A search of Russo was subsequently conducted and “the officer felt what he recognized to be a handgun in Russo’s jacket pocket,” police said. “At that moment, Russo resisted the officer’s efforts and fled on foot.”

While the officer pursued Russo, he saw the suspect “reaching into the same jacket pocket he knew contained the handgun,” police said. “Fearing Russo was going to produce the handgun and shoot him, the officer discharged his firearm at Russo to stop him.”

As previously reported, the 24-year-old suspect was struck by at least one bullet, but continued to flee before stopping in a nearby parking lot. Responding officers found him with at least one gunshot wound to his upper torso and provided first aid treatment until he was transported to a local hospital where he was listed in stable condition on Sunday, police said.

The officer involved in the shooting, later identified as Sgt. Shaun Gualco, was not injured, but has been placed on paid administrative leave in accordance with department policy. Gualco has served in law enforcement for 15 years and has been with the local department since 2008.

An article in The Sacramento Bee this week quoted Russo’s mother questioning why police took several days to release additional information about the shooting, noting in particular that police did not initially say whether the officer involved knew if Russo was armed when shots were fired. The original news release issued by police several hours after the shooting said Russo “was later confirmed to be in possession of a firearm,” but did not say whether the officer involved was aware of the firearm prior to shooting Russo.

According to The Bee, at least three surveillance cameras are pointed into the motel’s parking lot, but footage has not been made public. The paper also said Russo was hit by three shots, one of which shattered his wrist, another entered behind his knee, and another hit his abdominal area.

Police said Russo has a lengthy criminal history and was on parole for burglary and county probation for vehicle theft. He was placed under arrest on charges of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, resisting a police officer, and violation of parole and probation.

The discovery of methamphetamine and “evidence consistent with the sales of methamphetamine” at the crime scene will also result in additional drug-related charges being brought, police said.

The Ranch Motel, located on the 6200 block on Auburn Boulevard, near Greenback Lane, is known by police to have high levels of criminal activity. Police said Sunday’s shooting continues to be under investigation and cautioned that information released “is subject to change if new information becomes available.”

*This story was updated to include the officer’s name, which was released separately by police Wednesday afternoon. Additional information from The Sacramento Bee was also added.