The mother and sister of a suspect killed by Buena Park police joined attorneys and activists Tuesday in pushing the Orange County District Attorney’s Office to take another look at a report absolving the officers of any criminal wrongdoing.
In June, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office issued a report absolving Officers Bobby Colon and Jennifer Tran of criminal wrongdoing in the fatal shooting of 19-year-old David Patrick Sullivan on Aug. 19 of last year.
“We’re here today because Daniel Sullivan was murdered,” said attorney Humberto Guizar, who represents Sullivan’s family in a federal lawsuit, at a news conference outside of the county Hall of Administration. The family and attorneys appealed to the Orange County Board of Supervisors to consider pushing the District Attorney’s Office for another review of the case.
The family, their attorneys and activists also want an independent civilian oversight board to consider officer-involved shootings. They argued that prosecutors never charge police officers with wrongdoing in shootings.
Sullivan “was shot seven times running from the police,” Guizar said, adding Sullivan was unarmed.
“He didn’t threaten police in any way,” Guizar said.
Sullivan was accused of stealing about $1,000 in cash and another $1,000 worth of merchandise such as cigarettes, snacks and a gas can from a Shell station where he worked on the day he was killed, according to the prosecutors’ report. He put the stolen goods in the back of a customer’s Range Rover and left, prosecutors said.
The two officers, unaware that Sullivan was wanted for theft and driving a stolen vehicle, started following the Range Rover in Buena Park because of an expired registration tag and pulled him over about 11:35 a.m. in Fullerton, prosecutors said.
What started as a routine traffic stop escalated when the officers checked police records and realized the vehicle had been stolen, prosecutors said. As the officers returned to the vehicle, Sullivan started the Range Rover, threw it into reverse, prompting Colon to jump out of the way, prosecutors said.
The Range Rover struck the police car, worrying Colon that his partner, Tran, had been injured, prosecutors said. Sullivan ran over a traffic sign before slamming into a large palm tree and hitting two other vehicles, prosecutors said.
Sullivan flipped off the officers before getting out of the vehicle, shouting an expletive at officers and charging directly at Colon, prosecutors said.
Sullivan had his left hand behind his back as he advanced on Colon, worrying the officer the suspect had a gun, prosecutors said. Colon opened fire, prompting Sullivan to change direction, but then he advanced on the officers again, prosecutors said.
Tran and Colon then opened fire on Sullivan, who was struck by bullets and handcuffed, prosecutors said. Sullivan was pronounced dead by the time paramedics arrived.
“After the incident, investigators found an apparent suicide note in Sullivan’s wallet,” prosecutors said in the report. “The note appeared to have been written on cash register receipt paper. The note was addressed to Sullivan’s mother, brother, sister and grandmother. The note closed with, `I truly love you all. David.”
Sullivan was shot seven times, according to the coroner’s report.
Sullivan’s mother, Deanna Sullivan, said her son was “gentle and kind.” She said her son was going through a tough time because his brother died and his dad was diagnosed with cancer and angrily denied he committed suicide by cop.
Guizar said police do not have the right to shoot someone charging at them, and are trained to use less-lethal means to subdue a suspect such as fighting with them or using a baton or stun gun.
The District Attorney’s Office issued a statement saying it did a “thorough, independent analysis” of the shooting.
“The video clearly shows the decedent charging at police after the collision while screaming obscenities and changing directions several times, even after being shot,” the statement read. “Despite being wounded, he is seen on the video continuing to change direction and charge at police again. A witness standing across the street described the decedent’s action: `He had full intention of doing some form of physical harm or damage to the officers by his attack.’ ”
The District Attorney’s Office statement added, “As with the case in any investigation or prosecution, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office will always consider any new, pertinent information at any stage of an investigation, including after the legal conclusion has been rendered.”