On the afternoon of November 17, in rural Yolo County near the town of Woodland, CHP Officer Andrew T. Stevens was shot and killed instantly during a routine traffic stop.
At approximately 2:30 p.m. Stevens pulled over two vehicles and after waiving on the first, he approached the second driver. There was brief conversation described as cordial and professional, Officer Stevens then leaned into the driver’s window and was shot point-blank in the head. The suspect fled from the scene.
A witness sitting on a nearby tractor observed the entire incident and ran to Officer Stevens’ aide. CHP Chief Stan Perez said the last call to come in on Stevens’ radio was “mayday!, mayday!, mayday!,” as the citizen witness used the officer’s radio to frantically call for help.
Immediately, a regional manhunt was launched involving local police and sheriff’s departments, the CHP, and the FBI. Early the next morning a Placer County sheriff’s deputy spotted the suspect vehicle in a Rocklin hotel parking lot. Brendt Anthony Volarvich, 20, of Roseville and Lindsey Jane Montgomery, 20 of Woodland were taken into custody without incident. A third suspect, Gregory Zielesch, 47, of Woodland was arrested later that afternoon. Zielesch and Volarvich are suspected of being involved in a murder conspiracy plot in which the intended target was a Woodland man.
“Obviously, there’s a sense of relief” after the arrest, Chief Perez said at a news conference. “Who would he hurt next? Somebody so ruthless that would kill a police officer in cold blood, in broad daylight on a county road – what respect would they have for some other innocent person’s life?”
Volarvich and Zielesch were charged with murder of a police officer, conspiracy and possessing a firearm as felons. Both could face the death penalty. Montgomery was charged with harboring Volarvich. The next hearing date in this case is set for December 22.
Stevens’ loves in life were his wife, Michelle, their two basset hounds, and riding his Harley-Davidson. Officer Stevens was head of the Auburn H.O.G., Harley-Davidson Owners Group, and Michelle the club photographer. They biked around the country, including a ride to Milwaukee in 2003 for Harley-Davidson’s 100th anniversary. Last year the couple rode across Germany and Switzerland.
Over 3,000 mourners paid their respects to Officer Andy Stevens on November 22. Thousands of officers in their ‘Class A’s’ and hundreds of bikers in their black leathers packed the Adventure Christian Church in Roseville. Many dignitaries including Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Treasurer Phil Angelides were in attendance. Upon arriving at the church, all filed past Officer Stevens’ Harley parked in the church lobby draped with his leather vest, pants and helmet.
Calling the service a “solemn and sacred moment” Senior Pastor Rick Stedman addressed the congregation, “It is an honor for us to serve you today because you law enforcement officers serve us each and every day of the year. So this service is for you, and for Andy, and his family.”
Stevens was remembered as a man who followed his call to service, both in his job with the CHP and around his community, whether it was organizing the annual neighborhood camping trip, or the holiday toy drive for needy children.
Robert Hays, Stevens’ closest friend and best man at his wedding, spoke directly to Stevens’ wife with tears in his eyes. “Michelle, Andy loved you with all his heart, I can never express how much he loved you. He loved you with all of his being.”
After the memorial service, a motorcade led by over 200 Harley-Davidson riders, followed by hundreds more law enforcement motorcycles and patrol cars drove through Roseville to Mount Vernon Memorial Park in Fair Oaks for Stevens’ burial.