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Man killed in Healdsburg police altercation wanted in sexual assault

A man who died of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound Friday during a struggle with a Healdsburg police officer and a local resident was wanted in a suspected sexual assault, Sonoma County authorities said Tuesday.

Sonoma County sheriff's deputies and detectives were in actively searching for Everardo Romo in the south part of Healdsburg at the time a 911 call alerted local police to an intruder at a house across Highway 101, the sheriff's office said.

The incident unfolded shortly before 8 p.m. when a Kennedy Lane couple and their two young children returned to their home on the southeast side of town, authorities said.

The boy went in first and came outside saying someone was inside, sheriff's Lt. Carlos Basurto said. The adults then locked the kids in the car while the woman called 911 and her husband went to subdue the man, he said.

The man struggled hand-to-hand with the stranger for three minutes before the first of four police officers arrived and intervened, authorities said.

Moments after the officer joined the struggle, Romo, 43, apparently withdrew a handgun no one knew he had and fired it, Basurto said.

He was declared dead at the scene, he said.

The pistol recovered from the scene was registered to Romo, Basurto said.

Basurto refused to say anything about the sexual assault in which Romo was a suspect, nor how recent it was alleged to have occurred. He said authorities obtained a warrant for his arrest the day before Romo's death.

Then Friday evening, around 6:15, a family member reported that Romo had just called and threatened suicide before abruptly ending the call with what sounded like a gunshot, Basurto said.

Investigators trying to find him tracked his cell phone signal down to the rural Kinley Road area on the west side of southern Healdsburg, he said.

The department helicopter was launched, and detectives and deputies were actively searching the area even after the phone signal stopped pinging, apparently because it had been shut off, Basurto said.

They were still searching when the report of the shooting came out, he said.

Basurto said it was unclear how Romo chose the Kennedy Lane house. It appeared he entered through an unlocked garage and broke into the house through there, he said.

Under a countywide critical incident protocol triggered by in-custody deaths, the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office is investigating the shooting in an effort to ensure impartiality.

The Sonoma County District Attorney's Office is participating in the investigation, Basurto said.

Basurto said he was unprepared to say how many shots were fired. Healdsburg police earlier said it appeared a single gunshot had been fired.

An autopsy was still ongoing Tuesday afternoon.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan 521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com

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