U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Deputy Brian Bell

Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office, California

On June 19, 2019, Deputy Brian Bell responded to an assistance call from the Sacramento Police Department. While handling a domestic disturbance call in the Del Paso Heights area, Officer Tara O’Sullivan was ambushed by a male suspect armed with an automatic rifle. She had been struck by gunfire and lay incapacitated in the suspect’s backyard. Officer O’Sullivan was mortally wounded, and other Sacramento police officers were unable to reach her due to the suspect’s continual barrage of gunfire.

Deputy Bell responded to the scene along with other members of the Special Enforcement Detail. Due to their training and experience, as well as being in possession of heavy body armor and ballistic protection, portable rifle rated shields, chemical agents, and armored vehicles, their mission was to assist with the rescue of officers. Deputy Bell was one of the first to arrive on the scene and quickly donned his tactical armor and ran with his rifle to the rear of the residence where he met with police personnel and assessed how to safely rescue the wounded officer.

Deputy Bell made contact with a Sacramento sergeant who was in the process of coordinating a rescue. Once the Special Enforcement Detail’s armored bearcat arrived, they devised a plan on how to use it to reach Officer O’Sullivan. Attempts to access the yard were initially hampered by debris and other objects, but the bearcat was able to breach the fence and enter the yard; however, it then struck a large steel post, suffering severe damage that caused it to stall and stop short of the wounded officer.

Deputy Bell had trailed the bearcat into the yard on foot, and understanding that time was of the essence, he handed over his rifle to a Sacramento officer and instructed him to provide cover fire while he moved forward to rescue the wounded officer. Without hesitation, Deputy Bell stepped away from the bearcat and ran to the officer although he was fully exposed to the suspect who continued to randomly fire at the officers.

Deputy Bell reached Officer O’Sullivan, picked her up, and brought her to the safety of the bearcat where she was loaded into the back with the assistance of other officers. He checked her vital signs, and although unresponsive, he believed that he could feel a faint pulse. Once safely on board, and after checking that all other officers were accounted for, the bearcat moved into the alleyway where the wounded officer was unloaded into a waiting patrol car to be taken away for medical treatment.

The suspect was ultimately taken into custody by SWAT and Special Enforcement personnel. Despite hundreds of rounds being fired at the officers throughout the operation, no one else was injured.

Deputy Bell’s courage, unwavering resolve, and commitment to rescue Officer O’Sullivan, while under fire and at the risk of his own life, were clearly an act of heroism and selflessness of incredible proportions. Sadly, she was pronounced dead after being transported to a nearby hospital.