Los Angeles County prosecutors declined to file charges in connection with a half-dozen fatal officer-involved shootings, including one in which a college student was shot by a Long Beach police officer in May 2015, documents released Tuesday show.
In a 31-page memorandum, prosecutors concluded that Long Beach police Officer Matthew Hernandez “had an honest belief in the need for self-defense and defense of others when he used deadly force” against Feras Morad, a 20- year-old Woodland Hills native, on May 27, 2015.
Prosecutors found that “the evidence supports the conclusion that Hernandez actually and honestly believed he was in imminent danger of death of great bodily injury at the time he fired his weapon,” and that “this honest and actual belief precludes a prosecution for murder.”
Prosecutors also determined that there was “insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Officer Hernandez committed the crime of voluntary manslaughter with a firearm.”
Hernandez was dispatched to the scene after the Long Beach Fire Department requested assistance in dealing with Morad, who was “bloody, irate and walking aimlessly in an alley between 14th and 15th streets” after reportedly falling from a second-story window, according to the document.
The officer tried to detain Morad, then used a Taser twice and unsuccessfully tried to physically subdue him before firing multiple rounds from his service weapon at Morad, according to the memorandum.
A toxicological analysis showed the presence of marijuana in Morad’s system at the time of his death, but he tested negative for psychedelic mushrooms and no further testing for other drugs was possible because blood samples were inadvertently discarded by the coroner’s office, according to the document.
The prosecution’s memorandum notes that many of the facts that Hernandez described were “corroborated by other witnesses at the scene” and that some witnesses “perceived the encounter between Morad and Hernandez as a dangerous one in which Hernandez would arguably have been justified in believing he was in imminent danger of death or great bodily injury at the time he fired his weapon.”
Other witnesses described a “different type of encounter,” including a fire captain and a firefighter who said they did not believe Morad was being aggressive, according to the document.
The other officer-involved shootings involved:
— William Chau, who was fatally on shot Sept. 9, 2015, by an El Monte police officer while holding his ex-wife at knifepoint in front of her home, which had been set on fire. She subsequently died of thermal injuries to about 64 percent of her body surface and also sustained incise wounds to her body, while Chau’s former mother-in-law — who was rescued from the burning home — subsequently died as a result of sharp force injuries, according to a memorandum on that shooting.
An audio recording device worn by one of the officers captured him pleading with Chau to put the knife down, and Chau replying, “I want to die. I want to die,” according to the prosecution’s memorandum, which noted that Officer Jack Jenkins “did not immediately shoot when directed by another officer to shoot” and “shot only when it appeared to him that the peril was swift and imminent” and “the necessity for action immediate” in order to save the life of Chau’s ex-wife.
— Vinson Ramos, who was fatally shot on July 7, 2016, by Bell police Officers Rolando Carranza, Georg Balandran and Jose Garcia after they responded to a report of him pushing and blocking the path of a woman who was later determined to be eight months pregnant with his child.
Prosecutors said the evidence showed that Ramos was armed with a knife when the officers arrived at the scene, ignored continuous orders to drop the knife and advanced on one of the officers in an “aggressive and threatening manner” in a confrontation captured on surveillance video.
— Donta Taylor, who was fatally shot on Aug. 25, 2016, by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies Samuel Aldama and Mizrain Orrego after leading them on a lengthy foot pursuit in the Compton area.
“There is compelling evidence in this case that Taylor was armed during the foot pursuit, but may have discarded the firearm during the chase and was unarmed when the shooting occurred,” according to the prosecution’s memorandum. “However, there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Aldama and Orrego did not act in self-defense and the defense of others when they fired their service weapons at Taylor.”
— Roberto Rodriguez, who was fatally shot on April 8, 2015, by Los Angeles police Officers Sergio Gramajo, Michael Nguyen, Hector Almeda and Heriberto Crisantos Garcia after he shot and fatally wounded a man during a dispute in the parking lot of a strip mall at the northwest corner of 4th and Soto streets. Rodriguez tried to avoid capture by fleeing the scene, changing his clothing to conceal his identity and hiding, and the officers were confronted by a “rapidly evolving, life-threatening situation,” according to the prosecution’s memorandum.
— Jason Hendley, who was fatally shot on July 6, 2015, by Los Angeles police Officers Michael Briano and Francisco Aceves as they responded to a call of a verbal dispute that had turned into a physical confrontation in which Hendley fatally stabbed someone with a kitchen knife, according to prosecutors. Hendley repeatedly ignored the officers’ commands to drop the knife and rapidly advanced towards them with the weapon, according to the prosecution’s memorandum.
–City News Service
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