Placer shooting suspect pleads innocent
Flown from Portland, Ore., to face an attempted murder charge stemming from the shooting of sheriff’s deputy William Doyle, Christopher Ray Dennison pleaded innocent to the crime Monday in Placer County Superior Court.
For Doyle, Dennison’s arraignment Monday was a long time coming – nearly a year after the Placer County deputy suffered gunshot wounds in his shoulder, knee, leg and hand. The Tahoe City resident has not returned to work since he was shot at 2 a.m. Dec. 15 at Kings Beach State Recreation Area by a man who ran toward him and opened fire.
Doyle is still recovering from the shooting, with his 13th operation in a year scheduled for next week.
Of Dennison’s prosecution, Doyle said this week, “the sooner, the better.”
Law enforcement authorities in Placer County have been waiting to prosecute Dennison since the Oregon native was arrested Jan. 21 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Phoenix, Ariz.
Dennison was initially arrested for robbing a bank in Portland, but several other federal bank robbery charges have been filed against him in connection with an alleged crime spree across the Western United States.
Last month, a Placer County Grand Jury indicted Dennison on six felony charges, including attempted murder, assault with a firearm against a peace officer and additional weapons charges. The Grand Jury indictment enables the Placer County District Attorney’s office to bypass a preliminary hearing and proceed with a trial.
Deputy District Attorney Eugene Gini has been working to bring Dennison to Placer County from federal custody in Oregon. Dennison is slated to go to trial April 8 in the District of Oregon on charges of robbing a Portland bank Jan. 17.
“We were able to obtain the cooperation we needed jurisdictionally to be able to bring him to California,” Gini said.
Placer County Sheriff’s personnel transported Dennison Friday to Auburn on the sheriff’s department’s aircraft, the Eagle II. They landed at the Auburn Airport about 1:30 to 2 p.m. Friday and his arrival was not announced until the last moment for security reasons.
In Placer County Superior Court Tuesday, a judge was expected to decide whether Dennison can be detained at Folsom Prison instead of the Placer County Jail. Placer County Sheriff’s Sgt. Bill Langton said Dennison is considered an escape risk.
Investigators are hoping that Dennison can be brought to trial in Placer County as soon as possible, Langton said.
The detectives were able to provide the District Attorney’s office with compelling evidence against Dennison, who had implicated himself in Doyle’s shooting after his arrest.
It was a unique shoeprint that brought Placer County into the federal manhunt for the suspect in bank robberies in California, Arizona, Idaho, Nevada and Oregon, according to Langton.
The shoeprint was found at the crime scene on the sand of the Kings Beach state beach, but the make of the shoe could not be identified by the FBI’s crime lab and large database in Washington, D.C. In a remarkable coincidence, a Douglas County sheriff’s detective familiar with Doyle’s case traveled to Boise, Idaho in January on an unrelated case.
In a conversation with a Boise detective, the two investigators compared the Kings Beach shoeprint with a shoeprint left in the snow after a Dec. 23 bank robbery in Boise, Idaho. After that, Placer County detectives joined with FBI investigators in a search for a man who had robbed banks in Arizona on Oct. 3 and 16; in Reno on Nov. 1 and Dec. 6, in Boise on Dec. 23 and in Portland on Jan. 17.
Federal prosecutors are waiting to bring Dennison to trial in four states and a spokesperson from the District of Arizona U.S. Attorney’s Office said the order of prosecution is Placer County, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona and Idaho.
“We’re still waiting in line,” said U.S. Attorney Ron Rachow of the Nevada district.
There are two counts of bank robbery and two counts of using a firearm in the commission of a crime pending against Dennison in the District of Nevada.
In Arizona, Dennison was recently indicted with two counts of armed bank robbery and one count of using a firearm in the commission of a crime.
In Idaho, Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Michael Buckley is waiting to indict Dennison on a count of armed bank robbery stemming the robbery of $9,972 from a Wells Fargo Bank.
“We’re waiting to see how his other cases go,” Buckley said.
He has filed an information count against Dennison and will indict him in the future, he said.
Because of prior bank robbery convictions, Dennison is a three-strikes candidate in the federal justice system and faces a life sentence in Oregon if he is convicted of the Portland bank robbery.
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