A week after law enforcement officers in Hemet fatally shot a man they said was an armed drug dealer, the state’s attorney general’s office announced it was investigating the altercation under a law that requires the state to investigate police shootings of unarmed civilians. which resulted in serious injury or death.
Riverside Police Chief Larry Gonzalez said an initial investigation found that the man was carrying a gun shortly before the shooting.
Around 11:30 pm on January 18, according to a press release from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, members of a task force that included sheriff’s deputies and officers from the Riverside and Hemet Police Departments observed a man they believed was selling illegal fentanyl. , a strong painkiller that authorities blame for hundreds of overdose deaths in Southern California.
At a briefing on Wednesday, January 26, Gonzalez spoke to members of the Public Police Review Panel about what happened next at the Travelodge Hotel at 2625 W. Florida Ave.
“The suspect ran around the corner of the motel, got in and out of cars, and when he got out after a couple of cars at the end, a foot chase started when there was a shooting involving an officer,” Gonzalez told the Citizens Council, which is looking into police use of force and complaints on the actions of officers in Riverside.
“After reviewing some of the footage from the initial investigation (by Riverside County DA investigators), it was very clear to them that the suspect was armed with a gun, but (there was) not yet very clear evidence that the gun was actually in his hand when the incident occurred. shooting. So, following the letter of the law… we have notified the Department of Justice,” Gonzalez said.
The chief said four officers had been fired: two deputies and one each from Riverside and Hemet.
A spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, in an unsigned email, said the Sheriff’s Department told the General Assembly’s office on Monday that “the incident could potentially fall under AB 1506,” according to an Assembly bill signed in 2020. “Preliminary investigation indicates that the definition of possession of a lethal weapon may not have been met”, thus requiring the AG to investigate the shooting.
There seems to be a nuance to the definition of “ownership”.
For the record, the spokesman continued, “possession generally requires the weapon to be available for use.”
The 2021 DOJ Bulletin for Law Enforcement states that a suspect must have gun control to meet the definition of possession. For example, “When a civilian attempts to take possession of an officer’s firearm, that civilian has no right to possess it unless the officer loses control of the firearm,” the bulletin states.
The district attorney’s office, as is customary in the district, conducts a review of the use of force. On Wednesday, law enforcement still did not release the name of the deceased.