A man who allegedly killed a Riverside County sheriff’s deputy in an ambush outside a Lakeland Village home, chasing the lawman in a pickup until he shot him dead, is charged with capital murder and other offenses.
Jesse Ceazar Navarro, 42, is accused of fatally shooting 30-year-old Deputy Darnell Calhoun on the afternoon of Friday, Jan. 13, 2023.
Navarro remains hospitalized in critical condition, recovering from wounds he received when a deputy backing up Calhoun shot him.
On Monday, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office filed the first-degree murder charge, as well as an attempted murder count, along with special circumstance allegations of killing a peace officer and lying in wait, with sentence-enhancing gun and great bodily injury allegations.
According to a sheriff’s arrest warrant affidavit filed with the criminal complaint, Calhoun went to the residence in the 18000 block of Hilldale Lane, near Grand Avenue, at about 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 13 after 911 dispatchers received a call regarding what sounded like a domestic altercation, but were unable to get straight answers from the caller, who hung up.
Calhoun arrived alone in his patrol vehicle and “contacted several individuals in the driveway of the residence,” according to the declaration.
“Navarro partially concealed himself behind an open door of his (pickup) truck, holding a handgun out of sight of Deputy Calhoun,” the document said. “Within 17 seconds of Deputy Calhoun arriving on scene, Navarro began shooting at him. Navarro fired multiple rounds at Deputy Calhoun, as Deputy Calhoun fled on foot. Navarro then entered his truck, drove in the direction that Deputy Calhoun had fled and continued to fire at him from the truck.”
The affidavit indicated that Calhoun fired back at the defendant, but “none of the rounds appeared to injure him.”
Calhoun was hit several times and collapsed in the street.
Within three minutes, the backup deputy reached the location and encountered Navarro sitting in his pickup at the end of the street. The lawman ordered Navarro to surrender, but the assailant allegedly ignored the commands and instead “exited his truck still armed with the handgun, (firing) multiple times toward this deputy,” according to the declaration.
“The deputy fired multiple times toward Navarro, eventually striking Navarro multiple times,” the document stated.
Calhoun was taken to Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. The other deputy was not injured.
Navarro was initially taken to the same trauma center, but it’s unknown whether he remained there or was transferred to the jail infirmary at Riverside University Medical Center in Moreno Valley.
No hearings have been set yet in the case.
Navarro has no documented prior felony convictions in Riverside County.
Calhoun had been with the sheriff’s department and assigned to the Lake Elsinore station barely a year, previously serving with the San Diego Police Department. His parents are business owners in Temecula.
“It takes a special kind of person to be able to come to work every day, knowing that you could sacrifice your life for someone else and leave your family behind,” Sheriff Chad Bianco said during a public memorial last month. “Darnell was that kind of man, who came to work to protect people.”
Lake Elsinore Mayor Natasha Johnson said Calhoun’s “sacrifice reminds us of the ultimate price our law enforcement officers are willing to pay to keep our families and our communities safe.”
He left behind a pregnant wife and two sons, ages 2 and 4.
A “Help A Hero” fundraiser was established for the lawman. As of this week, $278,180 in donations had been made on behalf of Calhoun’s family. The fundraiser link is at helpahero.com/campaign/deputy-darnell-calhoun.
Exactly one week prior to Calhoun’s slaying, Deputy Isaiah Albert Cordero was laid to rest.
The 32-year-old motorcycle deputy was shot to death on the afternoon of Dec. 29 by a convicted felon during a traffic stop in Jurupa Valley. The man was killed two hours later during a gun battle with deputies attempting to arrest him after a lengthy pursuit that ended on southbound I-15 in Norco.
Cordero’s had been the first deputy line-of-duty death in Riverside County in 15 years.