Ex-cop could get significant prison time in Pleasant Hill standoff/shooting

Photo courtesy Pleasant Hill Police.

PLEASANT HILL, CA (Jan. 14, 2024) — The suspect in the late 2023 standoff and shooting with local and federal law enforcement is facing lengthy penalties if convicted.

Chunliam Nai Saechao, 40, a former U.S. Marine and retired Pittsburg Police detective, could receive 15 years to life for each of two counts of attempted murder of a police officer as part of the nine-count complaint filed by the Contra Costa County district attorney.

Saechao also faces three to 10 years in state prison on a single count of injuring a spouse and six charges for assault with a firearm on a peace officer or firefighter. Enhancements for discharging or using a firearm in the offenses accompany the charges.

Saechao has pleaded not guilty to all charges, and a preliminary hearing is on the court calendar for Feb. 9.

Law enforcement waited Saechao out over nearly three days before he eventually surrendered the morning of Dec. 9.

Pleasant Hill police originally responded to the defendant’s Sherman Acres residence on Dec. 7, after it was learned he shot his wife who had attempted to enter the residence through the barricaded side garage door.

A standoff ensued, and law enforcement attempted to better its vantage point for communicating with the defendant. Saechao subsequently fired 30 rounds at officers and personnel in an armored vehicle over a two-hour period.

Support from family and friends

As the case has moved into the courts, Saechao has received an outpouring of support from family members and friends.

At a Jan. 10 hearing, counsel on Saechao’s wife’s behalf sought to challenge the issuance of a full Criminal Protective Order (CPO) against the defendant. Judge David Goldstein denied the full CPO request by the DA’s office.

According to district attorney spokesperson Ted Asregadoo, Saechao is allowed unmonitored jail calls with his family, including the victim.

“However, Judge Goldstein said that if there was any ‘hint of dissuasion’ or intimidation between Saechao and the victim, he will immediately convene a hearing and will reverse his order,” Asregadoo said. “This all presumes Saechao is in custody if any violations of the CPO happen. If he makes bail, the limited CPO as ordered will be reconsidered.”

Attorney Randy Daar, who represented Mrs. Saechao, said nothing is in dispute about the criminal case. Daar said Mrs. Saechao will be a truthful witness if called by the prosecution. But, at this point, it’s all about getting help for her husband.

“She was instrumental to the FBI in helping reach a peaceful ending (to the standoff),” he said.

Saechao’s defense team believes he suffered a “mental health episode” during the standoff. However, one of Saechao’s tweets stated: “And just so you know I am perfectly sane.”

The district attorney’s office has acknowledged that Saechao “may have suffered a mental health episode” during the initial stages of the December incident.

Pleasant Hill Police Chief Scott Vermillion too noted concerns about the defendant’s mental health in the aftermath of the incident. While monitoring the suspect’s social media postings directed at police and those observing on the Internet, his suicidal intent became increasingly evident to officers.

“We believe he was trying to goad us into a gun fight and to do a suicide by cop,” Vermillion said.

David Scholz
David Scholz

David Scholz is back in journalism as a freelance writer and photographer after nearly two decades in education. Prior to moving into teaching in 2000, he worked as a full-time journalist since 1988 for rural community and small daily newspapers in Central Ohio and Northern Nevada, and later in California with The Business Journal in Fresno and dailies in the Bay Area, including The Oakland Tribune and The San Francisco Chronicle. More recently Scholz also worked in an editing, writing, and page layout role with the Rossmoor News.