By Crescenzo Vellucci and Nancy Martinez
Vanguard Sacramento Bureau
SACRAMENTO – A Sacramento County Superior Court jury has found that an area man did not assault Elk Grove police officers when he threw a “fireball” at them during a domestic dispute in January of 2018 – but he may have put the “community in danger” with his fiery actions.
It wasn’t as though the District Attorney’s Office didn’t try. Eduard Kamilchu was charged with felony counts of arson, two counts of assault to commit great bodily harm on a peace officer – all strikes – and felony violation of a restraining order.
Only the arson stuck after a trial that initially began almost a month ago, although it was delayed several times. Kamilchu can still be sentenced to three, five or eight years for the arson charge alone, but his “exposure” could have been closer to 10 years if the assault charges had held up, according to the court.
The six male, six female jury heard testimony for about a week about Kamilchu’s alleged violation of a restraining order Jan. 13 of 2019 that his former partner obtained against him, and of, when confronted by Elk Grove police officers, his attempts to avoid arrest.
According to testimony, he had made threats to kill his ex, whose sister called police to intervene.
Deputy District Attorney Tara McManigal Crabill charged Kamilchu “threw a lamp on fire toward officers,” who were at the bottom of a staircase in house.
“He then threw a lit can of kerosene at them, and started a house fire…the defendant admitted it,” said the DDA to the jury in closing arguments, adding it was a “bomb…a fireball. It doesn’t matter that he didn’t mean to hurt them.”
But Assistant Public Defender Bob Woodard claimed that his client didn’t intend to harm officers, and that he only wanted to create some distance from officers and didn’t intend or come close to injuring them.
“He started a fire to protect himself, to survive,” argued Woodard, who said his defendant had bad experiences with law enforcement and just “wanted to block their entrance, and get away and possibly leave the country. He did not intend to hurt them.”
Woodard seized on the opportunity to criticize the Elk Grove police, noting they didn’t have established protocols, and no one knew who was in charge.
“They don’t announce themselves and just creeped into the house. The police were not dishonest, but they were not always accurate,” Woodard said.
DDA McManigal Crabill told the jury that Kamilchu was responsible for “bruises all over her (his former partner’s) face.”
Again, though, defense counsel said the photos were disputable because they were dark.
“There were 911 calls and body cameras. The officers gave him an hour and a half to get out. His account is a flat-out lie. The defendant stood up here told you lies,” McManigal Crabill said, adding Kamilchu’s “unlawful act put the whole community in danger.”
The prosecution maintained throughout the trial that Kamilchu caused the standoff with Elk Grove Police Officers.
DDA McManigal Crabill questioned Kamilchu about an initial interview he had with a police investigator shortly after the incident. The officer asked Kamilchu if he lit a can of kerosene and threw it down the stairs of the house, and whether he thought that was a good way to proceed.
Kamilchu responded “I mean, it made them back off.”
The prosecution further questioned Kamilchu about why he never surrendered during the standoff. Kamilchu responded that he never had the chance to do so.
During the standoff, the police called out to him from outside and when Kamilchu went to the window, there was a shootout between the two parties. Kamilchu swore that he simply went to the window to better listen to what the police were saying but he was immediately shot at – but the DDA asked him why he took a gun with him to the window and why he used his gun to prop the window open if his intention was to surrender.
Kamilchu was later questioned about his past experiences with the police department and criminal record. Kamilchu testified that he has previously been convicted of a DUI and of a domestic violence charge because “the system forced” him to take a plea in both cases.
A 911 operator supervisor testified to a domestic violence call that was made on Jan. 6, weeks before the incident on Jan. 19. A friend of an ex-partner of Kamilchu called 911 when they allegedly witnessed Kamilchu violently grab his ex-partner and pull her into their house along with their infant child. The witness called for police to intervene and free the victim because of a fear that the victim was forcefully being kept inside the home.
Steve Holstead, an Elk Grove police officer, was the first officer to arrive at the home of the defendant the morning the domestic violence call that was made on Jan. 6. He said he spoke to the witness and spoke briefly to the defendant. Officer Holstead’s interaction with the parties of the call ended after taking an incident report from the witness.
Elk Grove police officer, Shawn Vargas, testified he had contact with the victim of domestic violence on Jan. 6 and observed some of injuries the victim sustained – including bruising around the knee, redness around the left shoulder blade and a cut on the victim’s upper lip.
During the re-cross examination of this witness, the defense counsel Woodard asked whether these injuries may have been caused by something other than domestic violence. Officer Vargas replied that it was possible, although Woodard noted that these injuries were not clearly visible from a head-to-toe picture of the victim.
DDA McManigal Crabill said that because the victim said the bruises had been caused days prior to Jan 6., the bruises were turning into a light yellowing color that is difficult to see in pictures. The officers said they could both clearly see the bruising in person and the bruising actually seemed to imitate the shape of fingerprints.
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