Police were justified in fatally shooting two men in South Gate and Winnetka in separate incidents about six months apart, according to documents released Wednesday by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Prosecutors determined that South Gate Police Officers Antonio Mendez, Isidro Munoz and Jazmin Vasquez “acted in lawful self-defense and defense of others” when they fired at David Pacas, a 36-year-old carjacking suspect, following a short, high-speed chase that ended with a multi-vehicle collision after Pacas drove through a red light on June 20, 2017.
“His disregard for human life created a catastrophic traffic collision involving five cars. Pacas demonstrated to the officers that he was willing to risk his life and the lives of others to avoid capture,” according to a report on the shooting. “After the collision, Pacas fled on foot, armed with a replica pistol which was altered to appear to be a real firearm. Pacas held the weapon in his hand, in a manner consistent with holding a real firearm. Under these circumstances, it was reasonable for the officers to conclude that Pacas posed a deadly threat to them and anyone in his path as he fled from the officers.”
Pacas was shot four times, and an analysis of his blood showed the presence of marijuana and methamphetamine, according to the report.
Prosecutors also concluded that Los Angeles Police Department Officers Alvaro Carlos, Mathew Matzkin, Steve Norris and Peter Tulagan “acted lawfully in self-defense and in defense of others when they used deadly force against Oscar Sandoval” after responding Dec. 30, 2017, to a radio call reporting a family disturbance in which they were advised that the 39-year-old man was potentially armed and suicidal.
Officers had heard Sandoval fire and held their fire when they first saw him step onto his front doorstep holding a gun, then “once again risked their lives by holding their fire” when he re-appeared soon afterward on his front porch with a gun in his hand, according to the report by the District Attorney’s Office.
“They did not shoot at Sandoval until he raised his firearm and pointed it at them. When the officers fired, each officer did so in the reasonable belief that Sandoval presented an imminent deadly threat to themselves or to their fellow officers,” according to the report.
Investigators also found a projectile impact in the tailgate of the white truck that five officers were using for cover, and the suspect’s brother told investigators there was no hole in the rear tailgate before the shooting.
“The location of the strike mark is consistent with someone standing at Sandoval’s door and shooting in the direction of the officers,” according to the report. “A gunshot residue analysis found that Sandoval had many consistent particles of gunshot residue on his right hand, indicating he had discharged a firearm or had been in the immediate area of a firearm when it was discharged.”
None of the officers were struck by the gunfire, but one officer sustained a shoulder injury while responding to the scene on foot, Los Angeles police said soon after the shooting.
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