Tony Reed
Del Norte Triplicate

In Del Norte Superior Court on Jan. 24, Anthony L. Hamilton, 31, pleaded guilty to attempted murder of an officer in Crescent City about 16 months ago.

Hamilton originally faced a string of charges stemming from a shootout with law enforcement in 2017 and was scheduled to start a jury trial on Jan. 28.

However, he instead pleaded guilty to a single charge of premeditated attempted murder of a police officer, with a special allegation of discharging a firearm causing great bodily injury. Deputy District Attorney Todd Zocchi said the enhancement will add 40-years to life to his sentence.

Hamilton was on probation at the time of his arrest for a previous charge of evading law enforcement in Humboldt County.

Zocchi said that while sentencing is still pending, he did not want to comment much on the case.

“Other than to say 40 years was the maximum, and that’s a great result,” he added. “We’ll just have to wait for the sentencing to make sure that happens.”

Hamilton was arrested June 29, 2017, following a vehicle pursuit and shootout with California Highway Patrol officers and Del Norte County Sheriff’s deputies in Crescent City.

While Hamilton’s plea means details of the incident won’t come out in a court trial, local law enforcement officials were open to talking about details that had previously been withheld.

CHP Area Cmdr. Larry Depee explained officers first attempted to pull Hamilton over for a registration violation, but he attempted to evade police.

Sheriff’s Cmdr. Bill Steven said the pursuit began in the area of Cooper and El Dorado streets, before Hamilton led officers on a chase down residential roads, through the high school parking lot and to a wooded area off Washington Boulevard.

Depee said Hamilton and a female subject fled the vehicle on foot, prompting officers to set up a perimeter around the area. The female was later released.

Depee said when officers encountered Hamilton in a thick, wooded area nearby, he had stopped running and opened fire on law enforcement with a revolver.

Hamilton was shot several times in the resulting exchange with the two CHP officers and a deputy.

The deputy, Joe Aguirre, was also hit in the exchange and both were taken to Sutter Coast Hospital. Hamilton was later flown to Mercy Hospital in Redding for treatment, Depee said. Once he’d recovered, he was brought back to Del Norte County Jail, where he’s been since.

Depee said two bullets from the shootout hit nearby houses. One was believed to have been from Hamilton’s gun and the other from a law enforcement weapon, he said.

Courage in danger

Sheriff Erik Apperson said Aguirre had only seconds to defend his own life from his assailant.

“I use the word assailant intentionally because I don’t respect that individual enough to use his name. He was the sort of coward that lay in wait so as to take another human life in an attempt to flee from a set of circumstances that only he was accountable for. This story to me is about Deputy Aguirre. Deputy Aguirre is a hero,” Apperson said. “He did what he had to do to not only survive but risked his very own life to keep our community safer that day. He acted exemplary, with the sort of response that reflects years of training, and it was his superior reflexes that kept him alive.”

Apperson said county residents can sleep safer because of Aguirre’s heroism in the face of danger.

Aguirre was awarded a purple heart medal and a Silver Star of Gallantry medal during an awards ceremony last month. Steven and Dispatcher Makenzy Cervantez were also awarded for their parts in bringing Hamilton to justice.

Hamilton’s sentencing is set for Feb. 21.

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