Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

San Diego law enforcement criticized over deadly shooting at Little Italy condo

It started with the serving of an eviction notice and it ended with a woman shot dead and an officer stabbed. Video has been released of the deadly incident, but KPBS reporter John Carroll says the video both shows what happened and raises questions as to why and we warn you, this story contains disturbing images.

It started with the serving of an eviction notice and it ended with a woman shot dead and an officer stabbed.

Community advocate Tasha Williamson said Yan Li's death was unnecessary.

“An eviction notice shouldn’t turn into a death sentence," she said..

Authorities released the video of the deadly March 3 incident, which both shows the incident and raises questions as to why.

The video comes from law enforcement body-worn cameras. It begins with a deputy serving an eviction notice on March 3 to 47-year-old Li in her condo in Little Italy. Li is holding what appears to be a meat cleaver when she opens the door. Things go downhill quickly after the deputy hands her the paperwork.

“OK, here’s a notice to evict," said Deputy Jason Bunch.

"What?" Li asked.

"It’s your notice for — put the knife down right now or I’m going to (expletive) shoot … put the knife down!” Bunch yelled.

Li said the deputy might be an imposter, and after some more yelling, she eventually threw the eviction paperwork back out and slammed her door.

The deputy called for backup and soon other deputies, along with San Diego Police officers and a K-9 unit showed up.

The Sheriff’s Department said during this time a building manager told deputies that Li threatened a maintenance worker with a knife a couple of days before.

Efforts to get Li to cooperate continued, but eventually, the deputies and officers decided to go in and get her. The video shows her peering out of a bedroom door and soon, a deputy fired bean bag rounds at her.

That’s when the San Diego K-9 unit was deployed and Li came charging out of the bedroom and toward officers.

The Sheriff’s Department froze video from one of the body-worn cameras showing the moment Li stabbed a San Diego officer. She died after several deputies and an officer subsequently opened fire.

critical_incident_video_-_little_italy (720p).mp4.00_06_33_26.Still001.jpg
San Diego Sheriff's Department
A freeze frame from a deputy's body-worn camera is shown at the moment deputies and police officers opened fire on Yan Li in her condo hallway on March 3, 2022.

“They should have used de-escalation training," Williamson said. "They did not have to enter her home because she was not a threat to anyone."

The incident is under investigation by the San Diego Police Department. Williamson said that’s a problem because she said police shouldn’t be investigating other police.

Both SDPD and the Citizens Law Enforcement Review Board (CLERB) declined to comment because the investigation is ongoing.

The entire incident lasted about 45 minutes. Whatever the investigation finds, Williamson said this is yet another tragic outcome that — she contended — could’ve been avoided if proper de-escalation techniques had been used.

  • The Federal Reserve meets Tuesday and is expected to raise interest rates in an attempt to bring down inflation. Next, an SDSU department chair said the reassignment of a tenured professor over the use of racial epithets in the classroom is a symptom of "larger cultural deficiencies" at the university. More stories on KPBS Midday Edition.