The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced Monday that no charges will be filed against deputies involved in the fatal shooting of an unarmed 23-year-old man who detectives said intended to commit “suicide by cop” in the Florence-Firestone area two years ago.
About 4:25 a.m. on March 7, 2016, Cristian Rene Medina called 911 from a pay phone. He told a dispatcher that an armed robbery was in progress at the intersection of Gage and Holmes avenues, and described the suspect only as wearing a black hoodie and shorts and carrying a black handgun, according to the D.A.’s report on the shooting.
Deputies responding to the call saw Medina — standing in front of a pay phone wearing a hoodie and long shorts — plant his feet and take a “shooting stance,” extending both his arms and pointing directly at their patrol car. Believing he held a small black handgun, as reported on the earlier 911 call, both deputies opened fire, with the driver firing his first shot through the windshield of the car, the report says.
“Believing he was shooting at us, I shot one round through the front driver’s side of my patrol car,” Deputy Jay Brown told investigators.
The deputies fired a total of 24 rounds, 13 of which struck Medina, who died at the scene.
No weapon was recovered.
“Although Medina was not armed with a gun, the evidence examined shows the deputies’ mistaken perceptions about seeing a gun were reasonable,” the report concludes.
The entire shooting was captured on surveillance video from a nearby liquor store.
Medina’s sister told investigators that her brother was a methamphetamine user and had suffered from severe depression for several weeks prior to his death, but had refused to get psychiatric treatment. The report cites evidence that Medina had previously contemplated suicide.
In the weeks after the shooting, NBC4 reported that the family was told by detectives that Medina made the 911 call to intentionally draw out deputies and instigate a “suicide by cop.”
Investigators with the District Attorney’s Office did not use that phrase, but seemed to draw a similar conclusion.
“Medina placed the 911 call at 4:25 a.m., a time where there was very little pedestrian foot traffic, ensuring the responding deputies would easily find him and identify him as the suspect,” the summary stated.
The report was one of seven officer-involved shooting investigations released by the District Attorney’s Office. Five ended in fatalities, including the 2016 death of Lancaster sheriff’s Sgt. Steve Owen, who was shot five times by a robbery suspect on parole who later took hostages before surrendering to authorities.
Law enforcement officers were found to be acting in lawful self-defense in each of the other shootings, all of which involved armed suspects, including one in a tactical vest and armed with a handgun, assault rifle and shotgun who opened fire on civilians and several Azusa police officers on Election Day 2016.