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San Diego DA's Office Clears 20 Officers In Five Separate Police Shootings

A San Diego police car parked in downtown San Diego, Oct. 24, 2018.
Susan Murphy
A San Diego police car parked in downtown San Diego, Oct. 24, 2018.

The San Diego County District Attorney's Office released reports Friday indicating that 20 local police officers will not face criminal charges related to five separate shootings, four of which resulted in fatalities.

The reports detail investigations into shootings involving San Diego, Chula Vista and California Highway Patrol officers dating back to July of 2020.

Two of the cases involved suspects firing shots at officers. One involved a man pointing an airsoft pistol at officers, while another involved a man wielding a metal rod and running toward officers. The final case involved a man who was fatally shot following a cross-county car chase in which he pointed a black object at officers, which turned out to be a toothbrush.


The shootings include:

— The July 9, 2020 fatal shooting of 49-year-old Richard Price in City Heights.

Price was shot at by seven San Diego police officers on Menlo Avenue after the officers responded to a 911 call for a man who was pointing a gun at people, according to the DA's review. Police said Price was found holding what appeared to be a handgun. He dropped the handgun and was ordered to step away from it, but reached down, picked it up and pointed it at the officers, according to the DA's Office.

He was shot multiple times and taken to UCSD hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 4:24 p.m.

The DA's review said the replica firearm appeared identical to a Glock 17 handgun, so the officers "reasonably believed" the gun Price pointed at them was real.


The officers involved were San Diego police officers Joshua Clabough, Ace Ybanez, Jason Gonzalez, Kevin Cummings, Miles McCardle, David Burns and Joshua Leiber.

— The July 5, 2020 non-fatal shooting of 25-year-old Keith Bergman in the sally port at San Diego police headquarters.

After being arrested, Bergman was in a parked patrol SUV in SDPD's underground sally port when he slipped out of his handcuffs, broke a partition between the backseat and front seat, and got his hands on a gun that was inside an officer's gear bag.

Once officers realized Bergman had a gun, surveillance and body-camera footage released by the department showed several officers draw their firearms and surround the vehicle, while ordering Bergman to drop the gun.

Bergman fired a single shot through the rear window of the patrol vehicle and officers opened fire, striking him in the upper body. No officers were struck by the gunshot fired by Bergman, who later exited the vehicle with the officer's bag slung over his shoulder and the gun tucked into his waistband.

He tried to open the rear hatch of the SUV, but was unable to do so, then attempted to open the driver's side door, and three rounds were fired in his direction. Surveillance footage shows the shots pierce the windshield of the cruiser as Bergman sticks his head through the SUV's open window.

The shots send Bergman to the ground, but he tried to open the driver's side door again, and another shot was fired in his direction.

Bergman later pleaded guilty to charges that include assault on a peace officer with a semi-automatic firearm and was sentenced in February to 10 years in state prison.

The DA's review found that Bergman firing the gun showed that the officers "acted in defense of themselves and the officers in the sally port."

The officers involved were San Diego police officers Timothy Arreola, Michael Rodriguez and Paul Yi.

— The Oct. 3, 2020 fatal shooting of 30-year-old Christopher Ulmer on Interstate 805 in Chula Vista.

Ulmer was fired on by four California Highway Patrol officers and two San Diego police officers following a police chase that started in Orange County.

Ulmer fled from officers who attempted to stop him for potentially driving under the influence. The chase continued south into San Diego County and ultimately stopped on Interstate 805 near Olympic Parkway.

According to the DA's review, Ulmer opened the driver's side door, but stayed in the car while officers told him to get out with his hands up.

A few minutes later, Ulmer "abruptly" got out of the car and pointed "a black elongated item" at officers, while taking "a shooting stance."

He was shot multiple times and pronounced dead at UCSD hospital at 2:09 a.m. A search of Ulmer and his car did not turn up a gun, but a black toothbrush was found beneath him.

The DA's review said Ulmer "took deliberate actions to convince the officers he would shoot them" and they "reasonably perceived Ulmer as an imminent threat."

The officers involved were CHP officers Lauren Chi, John Holm, Pakko Mendez and Javier Mendoza, as well as San Diego police officers Patrick Harvey and Edward Pidgeon.

— The July 20, 2020, fatal shooting of 33-year-old David Angulo by Chula Vista police officers.

Angulo fired at officers after carjacking a driver and leading officers on a pursuit, then was shot multiple times, according to police, who said Angulo was a suspect in three shootings and had warrants for his arrest that included attempted murder.

During the pursuit, Angulo crashed into another vehicle, got out of the pickup he stole and tried to get into a nearby home, the DA's review said.

When officers arrived, Angulo fired at one of them, prompting three officers to fatally shoot him, according to the DA's Office, which said "the officers' actions at the time of the shooting were reasonable based on the circumstances known and perceived by them at the time."

The three Chula Vista police officers' names were not included in the DA's review.

— The Oct. 19, 2020, fatal shooting of 39-year-old Jose Alfredo Castro in Mountain View.

Officers responded after a woman called police saying her roommate — Castro — was using a metal curtain rod to break out windows at their home. Police said Castro ran out of the home with a metal rod raised over his head and ran "directly" at officers.

San Diego police officer Isai Castillo fired his handgun, while two other officers fired a stun gun and beanbag round, the DA's review said.

Castro was taken to a hospital, where he later died.

The DA's Office said "Castro indicated by his behavior that he was attempting to assault and cause injury to Castillo and the officers" and thus "acted reasonably."

Castro's family filed an excessive force and wrongful death claim against the city the following month. They alleged Castro was undergoing a mental health crisis at the time and non-lethal options should have been employed.

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