DA’s office clears 10 officers in seven shootings, two of which were fatal
SAN DIEGO (CNS) — Ten local law enforcement officers have been cleared of criminal responsibility in seven separate police shootings, two of which were fatal, according to reports released Friday by the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office. .
The shootings date from 2019 to 2021 and include incidents in San Diego, El Cajon, La Mesa, Lemon Grove and Vista.
Among the fatal shootings reviewed was the July 23, 2021, shooting of 22-year-old Jesus Veleta who was shot by San Diego police officers Greg Bergman and Anthony Guerra.
Veleta and three other men were in a vehicle that was stopped by police following investigations into two shootings earlier in the night: one in Belmont Park and another near a Food4Less store on University Avenue. No one was injured in the Belmont Park shooting, but one man was shot four times in the University Avenue shooting.
According to the prosecutor’s office review, the suspects’ vehicle was stopped, but Veleta fled the car while armed with a gun.
Bergman and Guerra gave chase and at one point the DA’s office says Veleta fell to the ground. When officers ordered him to drop the gun, he held the gun up at officers and was shot in the back, the review said.
The prosecutor’s review concluded that Veleta ignored multiple orders to drop his gun, gave no indication that he was going to surrender, and that officers reasonably believed he would shoot them unless they fired. .
The other fatal shooting examined was the August 19, 2021 shooting of 38-year-old Setha Phangdy by El Cajon Police Sgt. Kevin Reilly.
The prosecutor’s office said Phangdy shot a company employee and then fled. When Reilly traveled to the area and encountered Phangdy, the prosecutor’s examination indicates that Phangdy began shooting at him. Four bullets hit Reilly’s patrol car.
Reilly responded by driving his car to Phangdy, then exiting the vehicle and ordering him to drop the gun.
The prosecutor’s examination indicates that Phangdy kept trying to reload his gun, then was shot four times by Reilly.
In its conclusion, the prosecutor’s office said Phangdy ignored orders to drop his weapon and continued to try to reload his firearm after being hit by the officer’s vehicle.
“It was reasonable for Reilly to believe that Phangdy intended to continue shooting him or anyone he encountered,” according to the DA’s review, which states that non-lethal options were “not feasible given the immediacy of the threat posed by Phangdy.”
The other five shootings left suspects injured.
- Daniel McKibben, who was shot by La Mesa Police Officer Roberto Nava on May 2, 2019.
Police were first called to a report of a man who refused to leave a house.
When officers arrived, McKibben told them, “Please stay back. I’m armed,” according to the prosecutor’s examination, which says McKibben hid his right hand from view of officers. He told officers, “Shoot me in the heart,” then “suddenly” removed his hand from behind his back, prompting Nava to shoot McKibben in the shoulder.
After McKibben was shot, Nava saw he was carrying a knife, which he threatened to throw at the officers, the prosecutor’s examination says. Officers told McKibben to drop the knife or he would be shot with a pellet gun or taser.
He refused, told the officers to “shoot to kill” and attempted to throw the knife, but Nava shot him in the hand.
The prosecutor’s review concluded that Nava was justified in opening fire due to McKibben’s sudden movements after initially telling officers he was armed.
It was later discovered that McKibben was suspected of the stabbing death of his mother, Heidi Green, in Ocean Beach, which occurred days before the police shooting.
McKibben later pleaded guilty to murder, with special circumstances allegations that he killed Green during the commission of torture and robbery. He was sentenced last year to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
- Omar Rojas, who was shot in Vista by Sheriff’s Deputy Justin Williams on September 28, 2021.
Williams initially responded to reports of a man “acting erratically”, brandishing a knife and slashing the tires of another person’s car.
When Williams encountered Rojas, Rojas ran and the deputy chased him into the backyard of a house.
The prosecutor’s examination indicates that Rojas found a BB gun in the backyard and began pointing it at another deputy. Rojas then left the house, at which point Williams ordered him to drop the gun. The prosecutor’s examination indicates that Rojas pointed the gun at Williams, then the deputy shot him in the right hand and in the back.
In a later interview, Rojas said he intentionally pointed the gun at deputies so they would shoot him, according to the prosecutor’s office.
Although the rifle turned out to be a BB gun, the DA’s review says it “had no visible markings that identified it as a BB gun” and that it was reasonable for Williams to open fire. after Rojas pointed the gun at him.
- Jesus Morales, who was shot by San Diego police officer Justin Hibbard on September 28, 2021.
The prosecutor’s examination indicates that Morales was riding a motorcycle that was stopped by Hibbard for an unspecified traffic violation. The attempted stop led to a chase, after which Morales ditched his bike and ran, according to the prosecutor’s review.
Hibbard chased Morales and at one point Morales turned and opened fire with a 9mm handgun, which caused Hibbard to fire back, hitting Morales in the chest and arm.
The prosecutor’s review concludes that Hibbard’s actions were reasonable because Morales “shot Hibbard at very close range with a loaded handgun.”
- Shane Felix, who was shot by Sheriff’s Deputies Lisa Crill, Casey Dow and Matthew Poulin on January 6, 2020.
The prosecutor’s review says police were first called because a caller reported that Felix was suicidal. When deputies responded to a house in Lemon Grove, Felix was asked if he was armed. Crill tried to check if Felix had any guns on him, but the prosecutor’s examination says he walked away from her, pulled a gun out of his jacket, and “pulled the gun aside like s ‘he was going to shoot’.
The three deputies opened fire and Felix was shot several times.
The prosecutor’s examination concluded that the deputies were justified in opening fire given Felix’s concealed firearm, the lack of cover inside the room, and the imminent threat of harm posed.
- Ryan Bowers, who was shot by San Diego police officer Matthew Steinbach on January 3, 2019.
Police were first called because Bowers had cut his throat with a knife, according to the prosecutor’s review. When Steinbach arrived, the DA’s office says Bowers pulled a knife on the officer.
Steinbach then pulled out his gun and told Bowers to drop the knife, but Bowers walked towards him, knife pointed at Steinbach, the prosecutor’s examination shows.
The officer fired twice, hitting Bowers once in the chest.
The prosecutor’s examination concluded that Steinbach had a reasonable belief that he could be stabbed by Bowers given Bowers’ continued advance toward the officer and the confined space of the room where the shooting took place.