Friends grieve mother who police say was mowed down intentionally at Santa Rosa homeless camp
SANTA ROSA, Calif. - Santa Rosa police are looking for a man they say intentionally mowed down two people at a homeless camp, killing one of them, whom friends identified as 43-year-old Kellie Jones.
They said she was not the intended victim, and are calling her death a tragedy.
"I could hear her crying and she kept asking me not to leave her, " said a friend who gave her name as Babe.
The two women had tents side by side when Jones was hit at about 10 p.m. on Tuesday and pinned under a car.
"I held her hand and called to her, stay with me, everything is going to be fine, but then she wasn't making any more noise and I knew she was gone," said Babe, weeping.
After talking to witnesses, police have no doubt that suspect Clifton Adams, 53, veered intentionally into the Roberts Avenue camp.
A short time earlier, Adams had been in a fight with another man, both of them visitors to the camp.
When Adams returned and spotted the same man, police say he tried to mow him down.
The man leaped out of the way and suffered a leg injury.
Jones, seated next to her tent, couldn’t react as swiftly, but apparently had nothing to do with the men's dispute.
Police say the stress of homelessness, combined with addiction and mental illness, can cause conflicts to escalate.
"In comparison to people who live in a home who can walk away and put walls between themselves and defuse problems, that doesn't exist," said Sgt. Chris Mahurin of the Santa Rosa Police Department.
Mahurin notes the placement of the tents also gives them no protection, even from a driver who is drunk or distracted.
"Camping so close to the road, and even on the road, makes it very scary for the people out there," he said.
After the crash, Adams jumped from his car and ran.
Detectives are following leads, in coordination with a downtown enforcement team searching homeless encampments.
Adams is known to stay in homes sometimes but also lives on the street.
"We're hoping he's still floating around Santa Rosa since he's without a vehicle," said Mahurin, "and the community he associates with knows he's wanted for murder, so we hope he wasn't able to get far."
Homeless advocates say the violence underscores the need for sanctioned camps and safe parking, at least until permanent housing solutions are found.
"It raises huge concerns about the health and safety of everybody out here," said Heather Jackson, a leader of Sonoma County Acts of Kindness, a group that supports the needs of unhoused individuals.
Jackson knew Jones well and saw her just a few hours earlier when she arrived to distribute donated dinners.
"She was someone who would come immediately to the car and grab meals and take them out to her friends before she would take her own meal," said Jackson. "She was very social, very outgoing, very kind, and always looking out for her brothers and sisters out here on the streets."
Jackson also believes most homeless people are peaceable.
"They are stressed, look at the conditions they're living under," she said, " but the homeless population as a whole is not a violent community, no more than any community."
Jones and her two best friends were on a waiting list to go into Sonoma County's main shelter.
"Days away, just days away," said Babe, "and we thought we would be there a week ago, all of us," said Babe, noting all three wanted to move in at the same time.
"Staying in tents, we watch out for each other, there's three of us, but now only two," she said sadly.
Jones' other roommate has taken in her pitbull named Scooby.
"Kellie was a wonderful person, she cares about everyone, loves everyone the same, and always tries to help everyone," said Nina Butterfly, fighting back tears.
Friends say Kellie Jones has been homeless for several years.
Despite her struggles, friends say she was a loving daughter, sister, and mother of two.
Jones grew up in Sonoma County and has family there and in Humboldt County.
"I was telling her hang on, we're going to take that road trip to go visit your mom for a week," said Babe, recalling those tortured moments as Jones lay daying.
She wants the suspected killer caught and brought to justice.
"The car was on top of her and he was still spinning his tires," said Babe. "And I was screaming stop, you're hurting my friend."