After a three-day trial, a federal jury found Brent Douglas Cole, age 61, resident of Nevada County, guilty of assault on a federal officer with a deadly weapon which inflicted bodily injury; assault on a person assisting a federal officer with a deadly weapon which inflicted bodily injury; and discharge of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced. The trial was held before United States District Judge Garland E. Burrell, Jr.
According to evidence presented at trial, on June 14, 2014, a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Ranger stopped Cole after he observed him driving his vehicle down a brushed-in trail near the South Yuba River campground in Nevada County. After advising Cole that he could not drive on the trail, the BLM Ranger allowed Cole to leave without issuing him a citation. After Cole departed, the BLM Ranger traveled up the brushed-in trail and discovered a campsite in a small clearing. Located within the campsite, among other items, were two motorcycles, one of which had previously been reported stolen and the other had expired registration tags. The BLM Ranger decided to impound both motorcycles, and subsequently contacted the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to request their assistance.
A short time later, a CHP Officer arrived at the site to assist the BLM Ranger. While both officers were working in the campsite, Cole emerged from the brush surrounding the campsite and announced that he was coming to get his things. The BLM Ranger asked Cole if he was armed, and when Cole replied that he wasn’t, the BLM Ranger removed his handcuffs. Cole said he would not allow the BLM Ranger to place the handcuffs on him. He then drew a Taurus .44 caliber revolver from the right side of his waist, pointed the weapon at the BLM Ranger and fired multiple rounds. One round struck the BLM Ranger in the left shoulder. In response to Cole’s actions, both the BLM Ranger and the CHP Officer returned fire. Cole turned the weapon upon the CHP Officer and fired multiple rounds. One of the bullets struck the CHP Officer in the right leg. Cole was struck several times by law enforcement.
After expending his ammunition, and being shot multiple times, Cole told law enforcement he gave up. The two officers handcuffed Cole, called for assistance, and then rendered medical aid to Cole while waiting for fire and medical emergency services to arrive. Cole, the BLM Ranger, and the CHP Officer received medical attention and all survived their wounds.
“Protecting members of law enforcement who protect our communities is one of this office’s most important priorities,” said U.S. Attorney Wagner. “Violence directed at law enforcement officials who are lawfully performing their duties is unacceptable. As a result of the verdict today Mr. Cole is looking at many years in prison. We are grateful for the investigative assistance of our federal and state law enforcement partners, and we thank the Nevada County District Attorney’s Office for its essential assistance and cooperation.”
“Assaulting a federal officer and any officer assisting them in their lawful duties is intolerable,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Manuel Alvarez of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Sacramento field office. “The FBI will thoroughly investigate such egregious and violent crimes to ensure that the perpetrators face justice for the criminal acts they have committed.”
“This violent event underscores the potential dangers BLM officers face every day as we safeguard the public and natural resources,” said Kynan Barrios, BLM California Special Agent In-Charge. “We appreciate the strong support from all of our law enforcement partners, especially the California Highway Patrol and Nevada County Sheriff’s Department whose actions prevented this incident from ending in greater tragedy.”
“On behalf of the CHP, I wish to extend our appreciation to the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office, the Nevada County District Attorney’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Land Management, and the members of the prosecution team and jury,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. “Officers across the nation face difficult challenges everyday working towards protecting the people in our communities. The fluent partnership between local, state, and federal agencies allowed for this case to be appropriately adjudicated.”
This case was the product of a collaborative state and federal investigation involving the Bureau of Land Management, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the California Highway Patrol, Nevada County Sheriff’s Office, and the Nevada County District Attorney’s Office. Assistant United States Attorneys Michael D. McCoy and Heiko Coppola are prosecuting the case.
Cole is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Burrell on May 1, 2015. Cole faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years on each of his first two counts of conviction. He faces a term of up to 10 years on the third, which must be served consecutively to any sentence he receives on the first two counts. He also faces a fine of up to $750,000. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.