Police Video Shows One Officer Fatally Shooting El Cerrito Man While Partner Uses Taser
A San Diego police officer shot and killed 52-year-old Dennis Carolino seconds after he burst out of a room holding a shovel and charged the officer and his partner, newly released body-worn camera video shows.
Brad Keyes, a four-year veteran of the department, fired multiple shots at Carolino. His partner, Jose Mendez, a 16-year veteran, fired his taser, according to a San Diego Police Department statement.
The encounter happened on Aug. 24 at 7:47 p.m. in the 5800 block of Adelaide Avenue in the El Cerrito neighborhood. The body camera video, as well as audio from a 911 call made by Carolino’s aunt and a recorded statement from San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit, were released Tuesday afternoon.
In past officer-involved shootings, this information was not released until after the District Attorney’s Office completes its investigation. But a new law, Assembly Bill 748, requires law enforcement to release body camera footage within 45 days of an incident.
During the 911 call, Carolino’s 70-year-old aunt told the dispatcher that he had thrown a brick at her. And when the officers arrived at the aunt’s home, she immediately told them that Carolino had “a mental problem” and later said he hadn’t been taking his medication. The officers told her that they had called for the Psychiatric Emergency Response Team, or PERT, to help with the situation. But they approached the man before the team arrived.
"We have a PERT clinician, it's a nurse that's going to come with us," one of the officers said. "We're going to go make sure he's OK. They're going to come evaluate him."
PERT pairs mental health counselors with law enforcement to assist people "in behavioral health crisis who come to the attention of law enforcement," according to the San Diego County Health and Human Services agency.
The officers walked to the side of the house and shined a flashlight on the room Carolino's aunt said he was in. When Carolino opened the door, one of the officers told him, "let me see your hands, relax brother."
Carolino rushed at the officers holding a shovel and Keyes opened fire. An SDPD statement said Mendez shot Carolino with a taser, but this is not visible in the video.
"S---," one of the officers said after the shooting.
KPBS confirmed that PERT had not yet arrived when the shooting happened. But, SDPD spokesman Lt. Shawn Takeuchi said, even if a team had arrived at the scene, they could not have spoken to Carolino first.
"A PERT clinician cannot make contact with an individual until the situation is deemed safe by police officers," he said. "It is very similar to how firefighters respond. They typically do not go into a violent incident until we first arrive and deem it safe for fire personnel."
Police often face long waits when they call for PERT, and there have been challenges in attracting and retaining clinicians, according to a staff report for the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. The supervisors voted last month to spend another $600,000 hiring more clinicians.
San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan recently called for more training for police officers encountering mental health situations. This was in part in response to a recent report that showed almost 65% of San Diego police shootings happened less than five minutes after officers arrived on the scene.
Stephan said her office will begin rolling out an 8-hour training for police departments this fall.
"We can really focus on those first few minutes and look at what the officer could have as information that would help them deal with the situation that involves a crisis of mental health or substance abuse better and in a less lethal manner," Stephan told KPBS in response to the report.
Stephan's office is still doing a review of the shooting to determine whether it was justified. The Federal Bureau of Investigations and the United States Attorney’s Office will also monitor the investigation, according to the San Diego Police Department.