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DA Releases Findings In 10 Officer-Involved Shootings

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Photo by Nicholas McVicker

Former San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis announces she is releasing three videos from officer-involved shootings, May 6, 2016.

With an eye toward developing a policy to release reviews and videos associated with officer-involved shootings more quickly, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis Friday released the findings of 10 incidents from 2014 and 2015 in which officers were found to have used reasonable force and will bear no criminal liability.

In the review letters released today, in which the District Attorney's Office conducts an independent review of whether the shooting was justified, all those who were shot failed to comply with officers' demands, Dumanis said.

There were substance abuse issues in eight of the 10 cases and in seven of the cases, the people shot had documented mental health issues, according to Dumanis.

In her letters to police chiefs in San Diego, Escondido, El Cajon and the San Diego Harbor Police, Dumanis found that the officers involved in the fatal and non-fatal shootings used "reasonable" force and bear no criminal liability for their actions.

Dumanis sent review letters in the following cases:

  • The fatal shooting of 29-year-old Anthony Ashford on Oct. 27. 2015, in Point Loma by San Diego Harbor police Officer Sulimoni Ahfook. Dumanis found that the officer was justified in shooting Ashford after Ashford got the officer's Taser and tased the officer in the neck;
  • The fatal shooting of Alberto Hernandez in San Ysidro on Sept. 28, 2015 by San Diego police Officers Jeffrey McCoy, Jonathan Wells and Brandon Lull. Dumanis found that the officers were justified in shooting Hernandez after he refused to drop a gun after threatening his female companion at an apartment complex;
  • The fatal shooting of 27-year-old Aaron Lee Devenere on Jan. 26. 2014 by San Diego police Officer Rick Butera. Dumanis ruled the officer was justified in shooting Devenere in his truck after he took his girlfriend hostage;
  • The fatal shooting of 21-year-old Ja Ma Lo Day on July 13, 2014 by San Diego police Officers Kelly Copeland and Javier Morales. Dumanis found the officers were justified in shooting Day after he refused orders to drop a machete;
  • The non-fatal shooting of Lance Tamyo at Mission Bay Park on Aug. 6, 2014 by San Diego police Officer Mike Weaver;
  • The non-fatal shooting of 34-year-old Jose Alberto Garcia on May 15, 2014 by El Cajon police Officers Nicholas Sprecco, Darren Ehlers and Robert Wining. Dumanis found the officers were justified in shooting Garcia after he pointed a gun at them at pulled the trigger, but the gun didn't fire. Garcia was shot when he racked another round into the chamber of his gun;
  • The non-fatal shooting of 27-year-old Philip McMahon on Feb. 16, 2015 in Mira Mesa by San Diego police Officer Christopher Gripp. Dumanis found the officer was justified in shooting McMahon after McMahon tackled the officer, knocking the officer's gun to the ground;
  • The fatal shooting of 54-year-old Robert Hober on Aug. 28, 2015 by San Diego police Officer Eric Oberndorfer. Dumanis found the officer was justified in shooting Hober after Hober advanced on the officer with a box cutter outside a CVS store;
  • The fatal shooting of 60-year-old Ton Ngoc Nguyen on July 3, 2015 by San Diego police Officer Michael Alberts. Dumanis found that Alberts was justified in shooting Nguyen after Nguyen refused to drop a knife at his residence.
  • The fatal shooting of 47-year-old Timothy Smith on Nov. 4, 2015 by San Diego Police Sergeant Scott Holslag. Dumanis found the sergeant was justified in shooting Smith after he repeatedly reached his hands into his pockets, where officers believed he may have possessed a firearm.

Dumanis said she is working with law enforcement and will continue to hold town hall meetings to gather public input on a policy to release officer-involved shooting videos and review letters as quickly as possible.


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