A Riverside police detective was shot to death Saturday by an assailant who ambushed him as he responded to a loud music complaint at a downtown Victorian-style home.
Detective Charles Douglas “Doug” Jacobs III, who was promoted nine months ago, died at Riverside Community Hospital shortly after the 2:28 p.m. shooting at 3140 Lemon St. Jacobs, 30, joined the department on Dec. 29, 1995. He was married and the father of a 6-month-old daughter and 10-year-old stepson.
Within minutes, police arrested Jacobs’ suspected killer, Steve Woodruff, 37, who lives in the home where the attack occurred.
Late Saturday, Woodruff was being questioned by detectives and was scheduled to be booked at the Robert Presley Detention Center on suspicion of murder, police said.
A neighbor said Jacobs’ death may have resulted from an ongoing dispute between two residents about the volume at which one plays her radio.
The woman apparently playing the radio, Polly Carr, is the mother of the suspect, police said.
Other neighbors said they made repeated calls to police to complain about drug use at the home and several others on the street.
Riverside Police Chief Russ Leach called the shooting a “horrible tragedy.”
“Ever since I got the call this afternoon, everyone who has talked to me about this officer has emphasized what a wonderful human being he was, a dedicated police officer,” Leach said. “This horrible tragedy underscores the dangerous job officers do every day. He goes on a radio call on a Saturday afternoon, basically an innocuous call about loud music, and ends up losing his life.”
Dozens of police cordoned off Lemon Street and spent hours poring over the house and yard, photographing the scene and questioning residents. One officer carried a small girl out of the house.
Late Saturday, officers began a house-to-house sweep of Lemon and surrounding streets, looking for possible witnesses to the fatal attack.
Riverside Police spokesman Lt. Ed McBride said some details of the shooting were still unclear. But this much is known:
Jacobs went to help Officer Ben Baker investigate the music disturbance, after Baker called for backup. The officers were at a two-story home converted into separate apartments on the first and second floors.
Police said Jacobs was standing on an outside stairwell when he was shot by a man who emerged from the first-floor apartment and fired, striking the officer in the head. McBride said it was unknown if the officer and his assailant exchanged words before the shooting took place.
Witnesses reported hearing four to six shots — two rounds followed a volley of four loud shots fired about five seconds later.
Immediately afterward, Baker put out an “11-99” call on his radio that Jacobs was down and needed assistance. Baker was not injured.
Police said it was unclear late Saturday whether the officers managed to return fire. It was also unclear what kind of weapon was used to shoot Jacobs. Police said Woodruff threw a rifle outside before he was taken into custody, but said Jacobs could have been shot with a handgun.
Sheena Stone and Edrina Washington watched from across the street as Jacobs was carried away by paramedics who arrived within two minutes after officer-needs-assistance call was radioed.
“You could tell he was hit bad,” said Stone, 28. “They were pumping his chest but he wasn’t responding. His arms were limp. You couldn’t see his hair because it was covered with blood.”
Stone and Washington said officers with guns drawn then ordered everyone off the street as they closed off the area.
A police helicopter circled the perimeter. Officers from Moreno Valley, Riverside Community College, the University of California, Riverside and the sheriff’s department also helped.
McBride said the suspected killer surrendered moments after the shooting, emerging from the house naked. He was arrested without incident.
Officers from the department’s Special Weapons and Tactics team cleared the Lemon Street address, using “flash-bang” grenades to smoke out other possible suspects. They found no one.
Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge had been working in his seventh-floor office at City Hall when Councilman Chuck Beaty walked in and told him an officer had been shot. Moments earlier, the two had been discussing the dangers of police work.
Loveridge headed to the shooting scene, then to the hospital to talk with some of the officers standing by. One officer’s eyes were rimmed red from tears.
Obviously shaken, Loveridge called the shooting an “absolutely horrific tragedy.”
“I am angered, dismayed and distraught,” Loveridge said.
Later, the mayor added: “It’s a real tragedy for the city, for the officers, for the department. He gave his life for the city. We owe him a debt of gratitude that obviously we can never repay.”
Loveridge said the shooting highlights the need for an interdepartmental city task force to pressure owners to clean up their troubled properties. A proposal to do just that is being considered by the City Council’s land use committee, Loveridge said. The shooting, he added, will probably accelerate city action on the proposal.
According to Loveridge, the apartment where the officer was shot had been the subject of a number of neighbors’ calls to police.
Nicholas Prelesnik said the shooting underscored neighbors’ fears.
“If they’re willing to shoot an officer, what would stop them from shooting one of us if we got in their way?” he asked.
A neighbor who did not want her name used said the woman who lives at the residence where Jacobs was shot was locked in an ongoing dispute about the volume at which she plays oldies music on her radio.
Police were called when the dispute flared up again Saturday afternoon, the woman said.
“This all happened over a damn radio,” said the woman.
Jacobs is the first Riverside Police officer to die in the line of duty since Claire Connelly was killed July 11, 1998. She was struck by a drunken driver while investigating a traffic accident.
City manager John Holmes said he was in the mountains with his wife when Police Chief Leach notified him of the shooting.
“It’s a real tragedy,” Holmes said. “It’s a real blow to the department. It takes a little while to recover.”
A check of Riverside County court records indicates Woodruff has had several minor scrapes with the law. In 1994, he pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and has warrants for several traffic violations.
On March 31, Jacobs was one of eight police officers promoted to detective to take on supervisory roles during overnight and evening shifts. He was a lifelong resident of Riverside and a graduate of Arlington High School and Riverside Community College. He was studying for a master’s degree at Chapman University in Orange.
In November 1998, he was honored by the City Council as Public Safety Officer of the Month for his role in training other officers and his work to shut down a stolen “chop shop,” obtaining a drug conviction, and for maintaining a positive attitude while assisting citizens.
Trust Fund for Jacobs’ Family:
Riverside Employees Credit Union
8543 Indiana Ave.
Acct. # 0196-02