Man Who Was Fatally Shot By Police In Escondido Is Identified
Authorities Tuesday publicly identified a homeless man who allegedly approached Escondido police officer last week with a 2-foot-long crowbar in his hand, prompting the officer to fatally shoot him.
Steven John Olson, 59, allegedly had been hitting cars with the crowbar near the intersection of Broadway and Second Avenue when Officer Chad Moore approached him shortly after 7 a.m. Wednesday, according to the Escondido Police Department.
Seeing the officer, the suspect "immediately advanced on (him) while holding the same metal tool in a threatening manner," Escondido Police Chief Ed Varso said.
"The officer gave multiple commands to drop the tool, as well as several use-of-force warnings," Varso said. "The (suspect) continued to advance on the officer, who was backing away, and he was ultimately shot."
Paramedics took Olson to a hospital, where he was ultimately pronounced dead.
Escondido police said they were aware Olson was living on the streets and he had been booked into county jail nearly 200 times since 2002. He was also involved in more than 20 service calls this year.
Andrea Felix’s grandfather was friends with Olson. She said Olson struggled with his cognitive abilities and mental health, but he was not a threatening presence.
“Steve was never aggressive, at least in front of me. He’s never been aggressive and to me he was harmless. The only thing I can say is, Steve was not able to cognitively put together or articulate a complete sentence," said Felix. “It was very apparent that you knew he was mentally disabled or he had some type of mental illness.”
A man who identified himself as Laban Davis told News8 near the scene of the shooting that he had witnessed the deadly confrontation, calling it "crazy" and "unnecessary."
"The guy wasn't really no threat," he said.
Davis, who said he counted five or six gunshots, said the suspect was holding the crowbar above his head but was "just walking" when he was shot.
"He wasn't running (or) swinging it," Davis told the station.
The officers involved in the incident had their uniform-worn cameras activated during the incident, according to Varso.
"As soon as possible we will be releasing portions of those videos to provide the public with a better understanding of what happened," Varso said last week.
The suspect was "well known" to Escondido police, having had a long history of property crimes and violent offenses, including assaults on officers, according to Varso.
Greg Anglea, CEO of Interfaith Community Services said the current system of police officers addressing individuals in mental health crises does not work.
“When somebody’s in a mental health crisis and they're experiencing homelessness, oftentimes police are the only response a community has in the moment," Anglea said. "And it's just not fair to law enforcement and it's also not fair to the individuals in crisis to have that be the only option. We really need mental health professionals to also be there.”
A protest regarding the shooting is planned for 5 p.m. Wednesday at Escondido City Hall.