Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Update on Rohnert Park Killing

Slain Rohnert Park woman had criminal record



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Details emerged Tuesday about the life of the 31-year-old Rohnert Park woman shot and killed by Rohnert Park police Sunday, including revelations of a misdemeanor criminal history stretching more than 10 years involving drug and alcohol abuse.

Santa Rosa police Tuesday identified the woman as Heather Kathleen Billings, 31. Family members said Monday she also was known by her maiden name, Heather Smith.

Police on Tuesday also identified Robert Lankford as the Rohnert Park public safety officer who shot Billings after responding to a dispute between her and her mother.

Family members Tuesday disputed the police account of the confrontation and whether Billings was holding a razor blade at the time of the shooting.

“When the officer told her to drop it, she dropped it. She was not interested in hurting anyone except herself," said Patti Smith, 52, the mother.

Lankford, 29, has worked in Rohnert Park as an officer and firefighter for 11 months, Santa Rosa Police Sgt. Lisa Banayat said.

He previously worked as a CHP officer for six years out of the Rohnert Park office.

According to Lankford’s account of the incident, provided in a statement from Santa Rosa police, who are investigating the shooting, Billings was uncooperative and “would not comply with the officer’s numerous requests to drop the weapon.”

Police said Billings advanced toward the officer and Lankford fired. Police have not released information on the number of shots fired. Family members said Billings was shot three times.

Lankford was placed on paid administrative leave following the shooting, normal procedure in such cases.

Billings’ criminal history started in 1995 and extended until the time of her death, according to court records.

She was due to appear in Marin County drug court Tuesday for a misdemeanor drug possession charge, court officials said. She also was expected in Sonoma County court in April.

Billings was arrested 10 times in Sonoma County since 1995 and of those, had three convictions.

In 1995, she was arrested and convicted of theft and was given two years probation.

In 2001, she was arrested and convicted of drunken driving and given three years probation. That probation later was extended to this April after a subsequent arrest and conviction for check or credit card forgery in 2001, according to records.

The other seven arrests, all dismissed, involved allegations of drugs, drunken driving, giving a false identification, driving on a suspended license. The last case was an arrest in 2005 for alleged trespassing.

According to court records, Billings spent 41 days in the Sonoma County Jail in total from two cases in 2001.

In Marin County in October 2005, she was sentenced for a conviction involving misdemeanor drug possession, said a spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s Office.

Court records show she failed to appear for hearings several times, apparently leading to an arrest warrant being served at her Rohnert Park home in October 2006.

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Police officer identified in Rohnert Park shooting




The Rohnert Park public safety officer who on Sunday shot and killed a 31-year-old Rohnert Park woman was identified Tuesday as Robert Lankford.

Lankford has worked in Rohnert Park as an officer and firefighter for 11 months. He previously was a CHP officer for six years, Santa Rosa Police Sgt. Lisa Banayat said.

Lankford was placed on paid administrative leave following the shooting, normal procedure in cases of violence involving officers.

Police also formally released the identity of the shooting victim, Heather Kathleen Billings of Rohnert Park. Billings also goes by her maiden name, Heather Smith, according to family members.

Rohnert Park police Lt. Jeff Taylor said Lankford had participated in a training program aimed at instructing officers how to respond to mental health crises. The eight-hour training is based on curriculum from Sonoma County’s new Crisis Intervention Training.

Taylor, who made it clear he was not commenting of the specifics of Sunday’s shooting, said 51 patrol officers participated in the Rohnert Park training in mid-January. He said the training helps officers to deal with people suffering mental health problems.

But he said an officer may use deadly force whenever there is a threat to his or her life or the lives of others. It doesn’t matter whether the threat is from a violent felon or someone with mental illness, he said.

“Force is determined by the amount of threat against the officer,” Taylor said.

Rohnert Park’s policies for the use of deadly force are based on state and federal laws, he said, adding that the use of “objectively reasonable force” is based on what the officer knew at the time he or she was being threatened.

The county’s crisis intervention training, which is being spearheaded by the health department’s emergency psychiatric services and the Sheriff’s Department, recently graduated its first round of 30 officers: 10 from Santa Rosa, 19 from the Sheriff’s Department and one from Healdsburg.

Another training session is scheduled for May, and Taylor said Rohnert Park has been given two slots for that training.

In other information released Tuesday afternoon, Banayat said officers have responded to the Cornell Avenue home where Billings lived with her young son and mother, Patti Smith, 29 times since 2004.

The calls ranged from complaints by neighbors about a barking dog to repeated calls about a disturbance at the home involving Billings and her mother, Banayat said.

An autopsy was scheduled for Wednesday.


  1. He had every intention of shooting her when he entered the home!!!!!!!

  2. Hmmmm....lets not use a tazor...nah!!!.....a bully club....lets not try to mace her......or perhaps a warning shot....lets not try shooting to disarm her....nah!! Let's just unload a clip on her... in front of her young son, no less...RIP HEATHER...WP

  3. New police firearms doctrine: spray and pray and keep firing until the suspect is dead and no longer poses a "threat" ....especially on the witness stand in court. Any cop or other khaki lackey who is not a good faith and bona fide member of the CSPOA or the OathKeepers is not worth two rotten cents of your trust.....and that's every gunslinging cowboy cop in the stink-rich boy infested Slow-Coma valley.

  4. Just found this from 2008... RIDICULOUS & OUTRAGEOUS!!!!


    North Bay News
    Shooting of mentally ill woman justified
    Saturday, May 09, 2009

    SANTA ROSA, CA -- A Rohnert Park Public Safety Officer was justified in fatally shooting a mentally ill Rohnert Park woman who "accelerated" toward him with a razor in her home last year, Sonoma County District Attorney Stephan Passalacqua said Friday afternoon.

    Heather Kathleen Billings, 31, was shot three times in the torso by Public Safety Officer Robert Lankford in her home at 7345 Cornell Ave. on March 16, 2008. One of the four bullets Lankford fired penetrated a sofa, Passalacqua said.

    Santa Rosa police investigated the shooting and Passalacqua's office reviewed the incident as part of an officer-involved shooting protocol.

    "Based on a careful review of the facts and circumstances, this shooting was justified under law. It resulted from the dangerous combination of drugs, alcohol, a utility-type razor blade and mental illness. This was a tragic incident for everyone involved," Passalacqua said in a news release Friday afternoon.

    Lankford responded to the house when Billings' mother Patti Smith called 911 because Billings was cutting her arm with a razor and was "drunk and out of control" and "tearing the house apart", Passalacqua said.

    Billings was holding the razor in her hand when Lankford arrived and she refused to drop it, Passalacqua said.

    "She moved toward Officer Lankford while holding the razor and said words to the effect that he would need to use a gun. After refusing to drop the blade, Ms. Billings accelerated toward the officer to within four to six feet while holding the razor in her hand," Passalacqua said.

    Lankford fired four times, striking Billings three times in the torso.

    Passalacqua said under the law of self-defense, Lankford was not required to retreat and he acted in lawful self-defense of himself and others.

    Billings' blood tested positive for alcohol, valium, methadone, nordiazepam and ethylidene dimethyl diphenylpyrrolidine, Passalacqua said. Passalacqua said his office's review and investigation of the shooting found no evidence to support Smith's claims to the press that Lankford shot Billings twice while she was on the floor. The trajectory of the bullets and an autopsy showed Billings was upright when she was shot, Passalacqua said.

    Billings also told the press her daughter had put the razor down before she was shot, Passalacqua said.

    A minor who was in the house at the time of the shooting confirmed Billings refused Lankford's order to put the razor down, Passalacqua said.

    The minor said Smith picked the razor up from the floor after the shooting occurred and placed it on a table when ordered by police, Passalacqua said.

    Between June 18, 2003 and March 16, 2008, there were 35 calls for assistance at the Smith residence and incident reports show Billings had a history of mental and physical health problems including self-mutilation, suicide attempts' alcohol abuse and abuse of prescription and illegal drugs, Passalacqua said.

    "This tragedy underscores the need for additional mental health, drug and alcohol treatment resources in the county," Passalacqua said.


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