FORT BRAGG- John Mills has been entertaining visitors at a popular tourist destination on Confusion Hill for years. Located off Highway 101 he’s used to meeting all kinds of different characters, but nothing could have prepared him for what was next.
"I came out to the employees restroom to get some stock to take into the men’s bathroom and this guy as standing there urinating against the side of the building,” said John Mills, an employee at the Confusion Hill store.
The man Mills is referring to is believed to be 32-year-old Ricardo Chaney of Eugene, Oregon. Chaney is the man accused of killing Mendocino County Sheriff’s Deputy Ricky Del Fiorentino before he was shot down by a Fort Bragg police officer.
Mills approached Chaney and told him to leave the area. The suspect did as he was told, but returned shortly after.
Reflecting back on the incident Mills said, "he came back with something hidden underneath a brown coat and all I had was a baton.”
The suspect then entered the front door of the business and fired his weapon at the store employee. Mills added, "I was able to see the barrel of the gun before I rolled into the kitchen and luckily I made it into the one part where it (the bullet) wouldn't get me."
Mills said he then fired back at the suspect as he drove away and headed south on Highway 101 toward Fort Bragg. Several bullet holes in the windows now serve as a reminder of that frightful day.
Mills may have survived his encounter with the armed suspect, but 48-year-old Ricky Del Fiorentino was not so lucky. Friends and family are now mourning the loss of a dear friend, son, and father.
"I don't think I’ve ever seen that guy have a negative attitude, or ever come in and say negative things about anybody. It was always a smile and everything’s good. He loved what he did,” said Fort Bragg Police Chief, Scott Mayberry.
Chief Mayberry first met Deputy Del Fiorentino when they were both young officers patrolling the streets.
"My heart goes out to his family, to all of his brothers and sisters, and all of our family here for this loss. He was a wonderful man, and we'll miss him,” said Chief Mayberry.
This is a grave loss for the law enforcement community. Chief Mayberry said this is a time when the local troops rally together.
"When there’s a call for help everybody comes to support. It doesn't matter what uniform we wear were all there to protect each other and protect the public,” said Chief Mayberry.
Services for the fallen deputy have been scheduled for Wednesday, March 26th at 10 a.m. at Fort Bragg High School.
As for John Mills over at Confusion Hill he says it’s back to business as usual.