By Joel Metzger
Paul Mandell, 19, fired his 20-guage shotgun twice at around 10 a.m. Dec. 29 in an attempt to defend himself and prevent a man accused of assaulting a woman from leaving the scene, he said.
According to a report from the Calaveras County Sheriff's Office, a man identified as John Souza and a female became involved in a domestic dispute. This altercation led to the female becoming injured and running to a neighbor's house for help after being assaulted, the report continued. Mandell confronted the suspect, who was attempting to leave in a vehicle, the report stated, and Mandell disabled it by firing several rounds into it, the report said, adding that the driver was not hit or injured.
Mandell, who is attending Columbia College and volunteers for the fire department there, said he woke up to the sound of his neighbor crying frantically in his house and his brother speaking with a 911 operator on the phone.
“The first thing I heard was, 'Come quick. He's (angry) and he's beating her again,'” he remembered. “I grabbed a brand-new 20-gauge Remington 870 Express shotgun by my bed and loaded three shells – one in the chamber and two in the magazine.”
Admittedly still “a little fuzzy” from sleep, Mandell walked out of his room to see his neighbor being comforted by his mother.
Peering out his window, he said he saw Souza pacing back and forth outside “screaming, hollering and yelling,” for his girlfriend to come out of the house.
“He had his fists clenched and was stomping around like a mad bull,” Mandell said.
“My mom was seeing to the woman who had been beaten,” Mandell said. “He (Souza) said he threw a 2-liter soda bottle at her, but I saw her forehead and it looked like he hit her with a 2-by-4. She was an absolute mess and still is.”
Mandell, who was wearing sweatpants and flip-flops and holding his shotgun, went outside and walked toward Souza, stopping when he was about 20 feet away.
“John sees me and says, 'What's the gun for?' I said, 'The gun's to keep you here. The cops are on their way.' He said, 'You can't do that.' I said, 'I've got the gun.'”
According to Mandell, Souza continued to yell and became even more upset. Mandell again told him that he didn't need to go anywhere because the cops were on their way.
At that point, Souza indicated he was going to leave and walked over to his late-model Ford F-150 and got in.
“If you get in your truck we're going to have a problem,” Mandell said. “That's the time I leveled my gun at him. I told him, 'If you don't get out of the truck, we're going to have some issues.' I stood in front of the truck, about 10 feet away. He would have to go right through me to leave.”
Souza then started the truck and began to drive forward, Mandell said, adding that he felt threatened by Souza's actions.
“When I heard him put his foot on the gas, I shot out his driver's-side front tire,” Mandell said. “It didn't stop him. He kept coming, a little more, so I sidestepped the vehicle and shot out the back tire driver's side, at which point he stopped.”
“I leveled my gun at him and said, 'If you don't get out of the truck right now the next one's in you.' He freaked out and turned off the truck.”
When Mandell was asked what Souza's reaction to this was he said, “I'm pretty sure pissed off doesn't cover it.”
By this time, more neighbors had showed up at the scene and one advised Mandell to put the gun away, which he did. Two sheriff's deputies and a California Highway Patrol car showed up about 15 minutes later and Souza and Mandell were both arrested on the scene.
After giving a statement, Mandell was written up for felony discharge of a firearm and released.
According to the California Penal Code, discharging a firearm in a grossly negligent manner shall be punished by imprisonment in county jail not exceeding one year or by imprisonment in the state prison.
“They wrote me up for felony discharge of a weapon,” Mandell said. “I was just trying to do the right thing. And I was acting in self-defense when I fired the weapon.”
Members of the Sheriff's Office confiscated Mandell's shotgun and 30-30 rifle, along with a box of ammunition for each gun.
Souza was released from jail and has now reconciled with his girlfriend, according to Mandell. A small-claims suit is likely to be filed against Mandell for the damage he caused to Souza's truck rims and tires.
“All in all, I wish I had handled things differently but I stand by my decisions,” Mandell said. “Had I been more awake, I probably wouldn't have gone outside.
“I really feel like, yes, I did overreact, but I think that facing a felony charge is even more of an overreaction. My neighbors all called me and told me I had done the right thing.”
Mandell will be arraigned in court at 2 p.m. today.