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Public Safety

Officer-Involved Shootings And In-Custody Deaths Reviews And Video Released By DA

Officers handcuff 44-year-old Lawayne Horne, Feb. 27, 2019.
San Diego County District Attorney
Officers handcuff 44-year-old Lawayne Horne, Feb. 27, 2019.

The San Diego County District Attorney’s office Friday released reviews of two officer-involved shootings and three in-custody deaths that happened over the past year.

The DA specified that illegal drug use and/or mental health issues played a role in four of the five cases. The two individuals shot were armed with a gun.

In all five cases, the DA found that officers and deputies were acting in self defense and/or reasonably and bear no criminal liability. However, it's important to note that all the incidents occurred before a new state law went into effect that redefined how officers can legally use deadly force.

Under the new law, authored by San Diego Assemblywoman Shirley Weber and signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in August, law enforcement can only use deadly force when it is "necessary." Also, legal reviews of shootings can consider the actions of law enforcement that led up to the shooting. The previous standard said deadly force could be used when it was considered "reasonable" and events leading up to an encounter were not factored into the legal review.

The following are details regarding the incidents that the DA's office included in a news release Friday afternoon:

Adolfo Angel Gonzalez

On Jan. 5, three San Diego Sheriff Deputies responded to reports of a man with a gun threatening a customer at the Del Taco restaurant on Broadway in Lemon Grove. The deputies encountered 28-year-old Gonzalez and ordered him to put his hands up. Gonzalez pulled a handgun from under the table and pointed it at two of the deputies. All three deputies fired at Gonzalez and he was fatally struck.

Gonzalez had a history of mental illness and had recently purchased the handgun. Gonzalez’s family was aware of his mental health problems and the day of the encounter, Gonzalez told a family member he wanted to get into a shootout with police. A toxicology test showed Gonzalez had a blood alcohol content of .25%.

Lawayne Horne

On Feb. 26, San Diego Police responded to a report of a partially nude man, who appeared to be on drugs and was falling down in traffic. Two SDPD officers encountered 44-year-old Horne, who was unsteady on his feet and disoriented. A companion told the officers that Horne was under the influence of PCP.

While the officers were at the scene, Horne fell backwards and struck his head on the pavement. He began rolling around on the ground and screaming. Two other officers arrived and Horne was placed in handcuffs until paramedics arrived.

Horne was placed on a gurney and the handcuffs were replaced with a softer restraint. Horne went into cardiac arrest during the ride to Scripps Mercy Hospital, where he later died. Doctors diagnosed Horne with non-survivable sepsis and kidney failure.

Marco Antonio Napoles-Rosales

On Aug. 16, 2018, San Diego Sheriff’s deputies responding to a trespassing call encountered 29-year-old Marco Antonio Napoles-Rosales at a gas station in Fallbrook. A deputy first allowed Napoles-Rosales to make several calls with the deputy's phone.

Eventually, the deputies told Napoles-Rosales to leave the property. He left but then returned. He fought as a deputy tried to arrest him. the deputy was bitten on his thumb. A second deputy used a Taser on Napoles-Rosales but it had no effect on him. He was placed in a blanket-like restraint device commonly known as "The WRAP."

Napoles-Rosales stopped breathing on his way to the hospital, but paramedics revived him using CPR. A scan of his brain later showed he had anoxic brain injury, which is caused when the brain is deprived of oxygen. He died the next day. An autopsy found that the the cause of death was sudden cardiopulmonary arrest due to methamphetamine intoxication and exertion during the struggle with deputies. A toxicology test showed he had methamphetamine and amphetamines in his blood.

Vito Vitale

On Oct. 5 2018, San Diego police responded to a report that a guest of the Harbor View Inn and Suites in Little Italy was naked and running in traffic. An officer caught and arrested thirty-nine-year-old Vito Vitale. Vitale fought with the officer and both fell on the sidewalk. Vitale struck his head, but continued to fight. At one point two civilians intervened and tried to hold down Vitale’s legs. Two more officers arrived and eventually put Vitale in leg restraints.

Vitale’s breathing became shallow and his pulse weakened as officers waited for paramedics to arrive. He was taken to a hospital but never regained consciousness. An autopsy determined the cause of death as cocaine intoxication. However, the county Medical Examiner also concluded that the effects of being restrained were contributing factors, and ruled the manner of death a homicide. That is not a legal conclusion, the DA's analysis said, “but one used to describe a medical assessment.”

Daniel Elzarraras

On Sept. 2, 2018, San Diego County Sheriff's deputies responded to a melee that broke out at the Del Mar Fairgrounds after it was announced that an ICE Cube concert was sold out.

Deputies encountered 22-year-old Daniel Elizarraras who fired two rounds from a handgun into the air. A deputy fired a Taser at Elizarraras, but it had no effect. The deputy then fired several rounds at Elizarraras. He was hit in the abdomen and shoulder and survived.

Elizarraras later pleaded guilty in San Diego Superior Court to discharging a firearm in a grossly negligent manner and using a firearm in the commission of a crime. He was sentenced to three years in prison. The review concluded the deputy was justified to fire in defense of himself and others.

VIDEO: San Diego District Attorney's Office Releases Police Body Cam Video

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