Investigators ID officer who shot, killed man allegedly tied to 2nd police shooting near Mesa College

Lacosta was believed to be a person of interest in an Aug. 2 incident that also ended in a deadly police shooting on Mesa College campus, according to investigators

An up-close image at a San Diego Police Department cruiser.
NBC 7

Investigators on Monday identified the man fatally shot by San Diego police and the officer who shot him in a confrontation at an apartment complex in the College area last week.

SDPD's Gregory Simon, a special operations officer with at least 7 years on the force, shot and killed 31-year-old Xavier Benjamine Lacosta of San Diego while they were serving a search warrant at an apartment on El Cajon Boulevard near College Avenue, according to the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, which is the following county protocol to investigate the deadly shooting involving another law enforcement agency.

Lacosta was believed to be a person of interest in an Aug. 2 incident that also ended in a deadly police shooting on Mesa College campus, according to investigators.

The man obeyed officers' orders to exit his apartment but came out with what appeared to be a gun in his hands, police said. NBC 7's Amber Frias has more details.

SDSO said officers arrived at Lacosta's apartment and did what they call a "call out" to get the suspect to come outside. The man did obey officers' orders to exit his apartment but came out with what appeared to be a gun in his hands, SDSO Lt. Joseph Jarjura said. He put the gun down on the ground, and while officers were ordering him to move away from the weapon, he lunged toward it, according to Jarjura.

That's when Officer Simon shot the man multiple times. He was given first aid, but died at the scene, Jarjura said.

No officers or civilians were injured.

"We are still trying to figure it out, but we believe that it started on the roadways," police said. NBC 7's Jeanette Quezada has more details.

On Aug. 2, SDPD officers shot and killed Benjamin Pickens, 33, on campus at Mesa College after Pickens shot and killed a K-9 officer named Sir. He was a suspect in a shooting reported on the 5300 block of Ben Street in Clairemont at around 1:30 a.m., Jarjura told NBC 7 following the incident. The sheriff's department's confirmation of the deadly police shooting Tuesday night in the College Area was the first time law enforcement mentioned a person of interest in the shooting reported on Ben Street.

Investigators said Pickens fired shots at someone from a white Tesla and drove away. No one was injured by the gunfire, but Pickens' alleged intended target gave police a partial license plate number that helped them track the Tesla down hours later.

SDPD officers attempted to stop Pickens, but he continued driving onto the Mesa College campus where he ditched the Tesla, the sheriff's department said Aug. 2. Officers found Pickens on campus armed with a handgun, and as a K-9 handler released Sir, a 4 ½-year-old Belgian Malinois, Pickens allegedly shot and killed the dog. SDPD Officer Addam Ansari, an 11-year veteran of the department, shot Pickens, according to the sheriff's department.

Sir was shot in the upper right chest during the exchange and was taken to a veterinary clinic where he died. SDPD posted a moving tribute on social media honoring him.

Pickens was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead, officers said.

It is not known what prompted Pickens and the person of interest killed Tuesday to shoot at the person on Ben Street.

"We are still trying to figure it out, but we believe that it started on the roadways. One vehicle, possibly trying to pass the other vehicle or some type of incident," Lt. Jarjura said.

SDSO is not classifying this incident as road rage but said it seems to have initiated on the roadway where Pickens followed the victim into a residential neighborhood.

The SDSO is investigating both police shootings, which is protocol for incidents in which an SDPD officer fires their weapon.

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