Leggett involved in IFPD crash;
later dies in police shoot-out
ecords obtained from Idyllwild Fire Protection District (IFPD) last week revealed two traffic crashes involving district vehicles two days apart, neither reported at the October board of commissioners meeting, one involving a major injury and the other with no injury. Both vehicles were reported in excellent condition instead. The board did not meet in November.
The first crash occurred Wednesday, Sept. 29, on Scenic Drive, about 40 feet east of Circle Way. Capt. Jim LaMont and Engineer Russell Bray wrote in reports to IFPD Chief Mark LaMont, brother of Jim, that they arrived in IFPD Engine 621 at about 2 p.m. at the corner of Scenic Drive and Circle Way, parking the vehicle off the roadway on Scenic.
They walked to a property on Circle Way to meet with “a property owner and his engineer to go through his building plans, requirements and permits,” according to Bray. At about 2:50 p.m., Bray said they heard a loud crash in the area where the engine was parked and rushed up the hill where Bray said they saw a man whose truck had crashed into the rear of the engine.
They both said in their report that he apologized and said, “I think I fell asleep.” They said they medically assessed him and he seemed fine, declining medical care. Bray said he called the chief to inform him and the chief said he was on his way with an ambulance.
“The man told us his name was Russell and he had his dog Rocco in the car,” wrote Bray. “He eventually told us that he had an open container of alcohol in the vehicle and stated it ‘wasn’t his.’ … Russell told us he recently got out of jail for domestic violence and that this would send him back for sure.”
Bray said the chief called Perris Command Center and a California Highway Patrol (CHP) was dispatched to the scene.
“While we waited for law enforcement Russell was pacing up and down in the street even laying in the street at one point,” Bray wrote. “Russell began to make phone calls telling us he wanted to get someone here to take responsibility for the open container.”
Bray said a silver Nissan Versa pulled up. A woman got out, took the dog to the car and the man followed. When Bray told the man to stay by his vehicle, the man instead, got into the sedan and the woman drove away.
CHP Officer Mike Murawski arrived soon and gave chase but was unable to find the vehicle. The vehicle that crashed was a gray 1997 GMC Yukon and Idyllwild Garage towed it. It did not belong to the man.
According to the CHP report, the man was Russell Christopher Leggett, 30, of Idyllwild, the same man who, less than three weeks later in the early morning of Oct. 14, shot at Banning Police officers when stopped on Highway 243 near Banning, then gave chase along Interstate 10 toward Palm Springs, and engaged in a gunfight with officers resulting in his death on an offramp. Parts of Highway 243 and I-10 were closed for hours during and after the incident.
Regarding the Sept. 29 incident, “Once we returned to the station we ran ME 621 through a battery of testing to investigate the extend of the damage. The damage appeared to be mostly cosmetic in nature as the pump and discharge valves all continue to function,” wrote the chief in a report addressed “To: File” dated the same day.
In the Dec. 14 board of commissioners’ agenda, the incident is finally noted with an estimate of $6,500 to $7,500 for engine repairs “currently underway.”