Los Angeles County prosecutors declined to file a case against a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy who fatally shot a 51-year-old man in Castaic nearly three years ago.
Prosecutors determined that there was “insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt” that Deputy Jeffrey Brito used unreasonable force when he shot William Bowers after responding to a report of a vehicle theft at the Rodeway Inn on Aug. 2, 2016, according to a memorandum from the District Attorney’s Office that was released Wednesday.
Bowers — whom the deputy recognized from prior contacts in which he had been cooperative — disobeyed commands to stop and fled from the scene on a bicycle and then on foot before being shot in the 31500 block of Castaic Road by the lawman, who believed Bowers was holding was a handgun, according to the document. No weapon was found on or near Bowers, according to prosecutors.
“Since Brito actually believed that Bowers was armed with a handgun, and presented a deadly threat, there is insufficient evidence to support a charge of murder,” prosecutors found. “While there is no video recording or additional objective evidence that definitively show the incident at the time Brito fired his service weapon, there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that his belief in the need for self-defense was not objectively unreasonable.”
Following the shooting, a group of civil rights activists gathered outside the sheriff’s headquarters in downtown Los Angeles to ask for a meeting with then-Sheriff Jim McDonnell and to call for an independent investigation into the shooting.
In a separate report, the District Attorney’s Office found that Los Angeles police Officers Josue Rivas, Antonio Hurtado, Charles Dickinson, Jose Vaca, Luis Sanchez, Damian Cruz, Danny Anderson, Carl Thompson, Isaac Gonzalez-Clemente and Alexander Aleshkevich used “legally justified force” in subduing Jose Chavez, who died after being taken into custody on May 6, 2018, in South Los Angeles.
Chavez told officers who were responding to a report of a prowler with a brick to shoot him, according to the document, which says Chavez impeded traffic, waved a large metal dustpan in a slashing fashion at officers, doused himself and the area around him with power steering fluid and swung a metal pipe.
Officers unsuccessfully used a Taser and beanbag rounds to try to subdue Chavez, who struggled with officers and spit in one officer’s eye as police tried to subdue him, according to prosecutors.
A deputy medical examiner subsequently determined that Chavez died of cardiopulmonary arrest caused by the combined effects of methamphetamine intoxication and restraining maneuvers by law enforcement officers.
“Given Chavez’s continued physical resistance, the officers’ use of less lethal force was reasonable and they are not criminally liable for his death,” prosecutors noted.
Prosecutors also declined to file a case against Long Beach police Officer Fernando Archuleta over a shooting that injured a 27-year-old parolee from Bellflower on July 22, 2017. The officer fired one round at Ronald Clark upon seeing him reach into his waistband for what the officer thought was a gun as police responding to a call of men standing in the middle of the street and sitting on the caller’s vehicle, according to the document on that shooting.
“In hindsight, the evidence showed that Clark was not armed. Archuleta was not aware of this fact when he encountered Clark. Due to Clark’s decision to flee, Archuleta was forced to make a split-second decision with the information available to him at the time,” according to the report. “We conclude there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Officer Fernando Archuleta did not act in lawful self-defense or defense of others when he used deadly force against Ronald Clark.”
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