A bitter dispute between a Napa Valley vintner and an investor apparently ended in a murder-suicide at midday Monday.
Vintner Robert Dahl and investor Emad Tawfilis both died following a meeting at Dahl Vineyards on Solano Avenue, south of Yountville, for a conference to settle their legal differences, their attorneys reported Monday afternoon.
The Napa County Sheriff’s Office reported the apparent murder-suicide, but did not release the names of the dead men, saying that relatives were still being contacted.
At this point, it remains unclear who shot whom.
One man died at the winery property of a gunshot wound to the head, the other from a self-inflicted gunshot wound following a police chase up Highway 29 and Oakville Grade to a forest property off Wall Road, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Both David Wiseblood, Tawfilis’ San Francisco attorney, and Dahl’s attorney, Kousha Berokim, of Berokim & Duel P.C., said they understood their clients are dead.
The attorneys, who had participated in the conference by phone, said the violence broke out during a break.
“I cannot make any sense of it,” said Berokim in a phone interview from Beverly Hills. “They were in the process of working out their differences.”
“It’s awful,” Wiseblood said Monday. “Two people are dead. And for what?”
Lexington Street Investments LLC, of which Tawfilis was a member, had sued Dahl over a $1.2 million loan to the winery. A dispute over repayment had resulted in litigation in both Napa County and Santa Clara County superior courts.
The meeting started at 11:10 a.m., said Wiseblood. An attorney for Dahl asked for a break at 11:30 a.m. When he tried to call his client back, he was not able to reach him, Wiseblood said.
Deputies responded at 11:49 a.m. to a report of a shooting in a vineyard at Dahl Vineyards, 6155 Solano Ave. They found two men in a vineyard. One man, who was in his 40s and had been shot in the head, had made the call for help, said Sheriff’s Capt. Doug Pike. He died at the scene.
The other man, who was armed, fled in a black SUV, leading deputies on a chase up Oakville Grade to Wall Road where the vehicle disappeared down a dirt road into thick forest.
Dozens of law enforcement officers from departments in Napa and Sonoma counties responded, setting up a wide perimeter. SWAT units from Napa Police and the Sheriff’s Office were summoned, as was an armored vehicle that could be used to protect officers.
Shortly after 1 p.m., SWAT officers found the suspect, described in the official press release only as a white male in his 40s, dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The Napa County Major Crimes Investigation Team, comprised of members from the Sheriff’s Office, Napa Police, Calistoga Police and the Napa County District Attorney’s Office, will be investigating.
While the suspect was still on the loose, the Sheriff’s Office sent out a Nixle alert asking residents in the area to lock their doors and report any suspicious activity.
Justin-Siena High School in Napa was briefly locked down after the report of the shooting farther north on Solano.
American Canyon police sent a canine search team to the scene, and agencies as distant as the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office and Sonoma Police also responded. The California Highway Patrol sent a helicopter to help with the search.
Ryan Bennie was riding his bicycle on remote Wall Road at about noon. He described hearing a noise that he later figured out was the suspect’s car crashing through a cattle gate.
“It literally happened a couple of minutes before I headed down the hill,” said Bennie, who then witnessed 20 or so law enforcement cars in pursuit.
Bennie learned about the shooting related to the pursuit when he reached the section of Dry Creek Road near the city of Napa and saw messages on his phone.