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Sgt. Ryan Cole and Officer Jack Thomson Napa Police Officers Fatally Shoot Noel Aaron Russell With a Knife

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The Napa Police Department has identified the two officers who fatally shot a 23-year-old man armed with a knife last week. The officers are Sgt. Ryan Cole, a 22-year law enforcement veteran and Officer Jack Thomson, a 25-year law enforcement veteran. The fatal shooting of Noel Aaron Russell, 23, of Napa, was the first of two unrelated incidents involving two separate “aggressive males” that were reported five minutes apart in the South Napa Market Place area on March 13, Napa police Capt. Jennifer Gonzales said.

Investigators discovered the two suspicious circumstances were happening simultaneously near each other, and some community members believed they involved the same person, Gonzales said in a statement Friday. The first incident at 6:21 p.m. involved Russell in the annex parking lot north of Kansas Avenue and west of Soscol Avenue, Gonzales said. Russell reportedly was attacking individuals with a knife in the parking lot.

Cole and Thomson responded, drew their weapon and ordered Russell to get on the ground, according to Gonzales. Russell did not comply and turned his aggression at the officers and was shot by Cole and Thomson. A locked open folding knife was recovered next to him and he died at the scene, Gonzales said. A third unidentified officer arrived after the shooting.

Neither Cole nor Thomson was wearing a body camera, Gonzales said. Russell had been a Napa resident for the past year and he was wanted on two warrants for possession of a methamphetamine pipe, obstructing and resisting an executive officer and battery against a peace officer, according to police.

The second incident at 6:27 p.m. involved Wally Williamson, 28, of Napa, on Soscol Avenue in front of the South Napa Market Place but not in the parking lot, Gonzales said. Williamson was running into traffic and acting bizarrely, and Napa County sheriff’s deputies who were responding to the officer-involved shooting contacted him on Soscol Avenue at Shelter Avenue 6:40 p.m., Gonzales said.

Russell did not travel east to where Williamson was located and Williamson did not travel to Russell’s location, Gonzales said. Williamson was later arrested on suspicion of being under the influence of a controlled substance. Cole and Thomson have had tactical communication, crisis intervention and critical incident response training, and Thomson is a trained crisis negotiator for the Police Department, Gonzales said. The Napa County Sheriff’s Office is leading the investigation into the fatal shooting of Russell, Gonzales said.

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