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Man Found Dead in Pond Days After Fleeing Deputies North of Healdsburg

Several local residents on Facebook on Tuesday night were wondering about a helicopter search in their semi-rural neighborhood. Here's the story.

"Anyone know of a manhunt north of healdsburg? the helicoptor keeps circling my neighbours yard," read the post on Facebook on Wednesday nght.

Now the story can be told, and it's not a pretty one: a 21-year old man from Davis, James Flavio Gomez, was found dead in a pond on his father's Geyserville Rd. property, two and a half days after he ran away from Sheriff's deputies attempting to question him.

On Tuesday, March 19, at 8:18 p.m., Sonoma County Sheriff's Deputies made a traffic stop on Healdsburg Ave. north of town, almost to Alexander Valley Rd., for a vehicle code violation.

They contacted the driver, James Favio Gomez, a 21 year-old male who lives in Davis, Calif. A passenger was also in the car, Kelsey Michaela Stauffer, a 23 year-old female and also a resident of Davis.

Reads the press report issued tonight by the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office,

During the traffic stop Gomez displayed symptoms of being under the influence of a controlled substance, became agitated and more uncooperative throughout the course of the traffic stop.

When Gomez refused to exit the vehicle deputies opened the driver's door of the vehicle in an effort to remove Gomez from the vehicle to continue their investigation. At that time Gomez sped off,  running over the foot of one the deputies in the process.

Sheriff cars raced after Gomez', and he crashed at the tight corner of Lytton Station Rd. and Healdsburg Ave.  When a deputy approached the vehicle it was discovered that Gomez had fled on foot.

Stauffer also left the scene of the crash, but was apprehended a short distance away. She was arrested and booked into county jail for resisting arrest and being under the influence of a controlled substance.

By now numerous other deputies had arrived at the intersection just off the Lytton Springs exit,  tasked with the search of to a rural property located in the 18000 block of Geyserville Rd. approximately 300 yards from where he crashed his vehicle.

The Sheriff’s own Huey One was not available, so a R.E.A.C.H. helicopter was used in the overhead, search as well as several K-9s and electronic devices. The property was described as heavily wooded and thickly brushed, save for two half-acre ponds.

After over three hours, at 12:54 a.m., deputies were still not able to locate Gomez and called off the search.

On Thursday May 21, a man identified in the sheriff’s report only as “Gomez’ father” went to the Sheriff’s office say that no one had heard from his son since the accident, and he was concerned for his safety.

Henry One flew to the scene at 7:00 p.m. that evening to conduct another search of the area where James Gomez was last seen running. For a second time, helicopter surveillance was not able to locate Gomez.

Gomez' father told deputies that he was going to search the area for his son the next morning, Friday.

At 11:45 a.m. today,  Sheriff's Dispatch received a 911 call from Gomez' family members stating they had located Gomez' body in one of the ponds on the property. Sheriff Deputies responded to the area and secured the scene.

Since sheriff deputies were involved in the pursuit and an extensive search for Gomez, and he was found dead, the Critical Incident Protocol has been invoked and the Santa Rosa Police Department will be conducting the investigation.

Robin March 23, 2013 at 08:39 PM
This is such a sad situation. I watched this kid grow up and knew his Dad years ago (Davis Cop). My regards go out to his family and friends. RIP James
Anonymous March 24, 2013 at 03:23 PM
As a friend of the family I would like to comment on a discrepancy and key piece of information missing from the article. It was not his father's property on which the search party found his body. The owners of each of the properties that were searched were notified to the best of our ability before the search of their property began. They had no affiliation with James. In addition, although I am not able to (as no one should be until an autopsy is done) comment on the allegation of James being under the influence, I can add that he did suffer from mental illness, a key piece of information in making sure he is not unjustly vilified. He was a sweet, loving kid who was caught in a scary situation given his condition in which a split second decision made him and his family pay an unfair, permanent price.
anonymous March 25, 2013 at 09:26 PM
thank you for that "anonymous." This article put him in a really bad light and didn't get their facts straight. The author of this article should be ashamed. Part of being a reporter is getting the facts straight befor you report.
anonymous April 27, 2013 at 07:55 AM
every article speaks untruths regarding all the details for James's death. He didn't suffer from anything, he was the happiest person on the planet.

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