San Diego District Attorney Reviews Officer-Involved Shootings, In-Custody Deaths December 2018

The San Diego County District Attorney's Office ruled officers acted reasonably under the circumstances in eight officer-involved shootings and four in-custody deaths. 

Twelve letters were released Friday to local law enforcement agencies informing them of the results of the DA Office’s review. 

"Our job is to deliver equal justice that is fair under the law for everyone," said District Attorney Summer Stephan, adding that the release of any video in these cases must be respectful to the families of those who have died or have been injured as well as to the officers involved.

In all of the incidents, the officers bear no criminal liability for their actions, Stephan said.

The DA will provide video and other details regarding the following investigations: 

Kristopher Birtcher - October 14, 2017 

A stun gun was deployed and maximum restraints used after Kristopher Birtcher was resisting San Diego County sheriff's deputies' attempts to detain him. The incident took place near the Hobby Lobby on Grand Avenue in San Marcos.  Deputies believed he was under the influence of drugs and gave him Naloxone to treat what they believed was a drug overdose. Birtcher's condition worsened on the way to a hospital where he was pronounced dead in the emergency room. An autopsy determined the cause of death was sudden cardiac arrest while restrained and acute methamphetamine intoxication, Stephan said. Here is the full report.

An image of Kristopher Birtcher taken from store surveillance camera, released on Dec. 14, 2018 by the San Diego County District Attorney's Office as part of their formal review of officers' actions.

James Lacy - August 7, 2017

James H. Lacey was shot and killed in Banker's Hill after he reportedly threatened to shoot two deputies who were trying to evict him from his 2nd Avenue apartment. The 47-year-old was shot by two San Diego County sheriff's deputies. Read the report released Friday by the DA's office here.

Oscar Leal - February 28, 2018

Oscar Leal, 37, was arrested by SDSO deputies for being under the influence of a controlled substance after he called 911 several times and was being taken to the Vista Detention Facility when he began to behave oddly, the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office said. At the jail, Leal became unresponsive. Read the full report on the incident here.

An image of Oscar Leal in custody minutes before he stopped breathing and CPR was initiated.

Alexander Ochoa - September 22, 2017

Oceanside police encountered Alexander Ochoa, 26, who they say was armed with a knife on Marron Road near College Boulevard, in the parking lot of the Kohl's Department store. Bean bags and K-9 officers were deployed before Ochoa pulled out a handgun, officers said. Officers opened fire, killing Ochoa. Read the results of the prosecutors' investigation here.

Osbaldo Ramirez - March 17, 2018 

Osbaldo Ramirez Jimenez, 50, died at Palomar Medical Center in Escondido from gunshot wounds suffered in the encounter with police in the parking lot of the Valley View Casino & Hotel. Escondido police were the first officers to encounter Ramirez as they responding to a family disturbance on Timber Glen. Ramirez fled the neighborhood in a car and refused to yield for law enforcement officers. The San Diego County Sheriff's Department (SDSO) and San Pasqual Tribal Police were called to help. At least one law enforcement officer fired, fatally injuring Ramirez. Here is the full report from the DA Office's review.

Paul Silva - February 22, 2018

Paul Silva, 39, was schizophrenic but was not on his prescribed medication when his mother called San Diego police to have him taken to a medical facility for treatment, the family said. 

Stephan said the mother called police because her son was banging on her windows demanding entry. Silva's mother told officers her son was under the influence of methamphetamine, Stephan said. 

Silva was arrested on suspicion of being in possession of a controlled substance, the district attorney said. 

He was taken to the Central Jail downtown and handed over to San Diego County sheriff's deputies.

"During the time deputies were evaluating Silva for release they noticed he was behaving erratically, harming himself by running into the walls and throwing himself onto the floor," Stephan said.  

Silva refused deputies' requests to exit his cell, she added. 

After a tactical team arrived, a team of deputies entered the cell and restrained Silva to remove him from the cell.

"Silva went into cardiac arrest and became unresponsive," Stephan said.

Silva was taken to a hospital where he was diagnosed with anoxic brain injury, or an injury that occurs when the brain is deprived of oxygen.  He was removed from life support weeks after his arrest.

The family's attorney said a stun gun was used on Silva while he was in custody.  Here is the report released by the San Diego County District Attorney's Office.

Jose Trujillo - July 25, 2018

San Diego County sheriff's deputies opened fire on Jose Trujillo after a pursuit that reached speeds over 100 miles per hour. The pursuit began in Vista at about 8:45 p.m. when Trujillo refused to yield to deputies. During the pursuit, officials say Trujillo called 911 and informed the dispatcher that he had a loaded 9mm handgun and wanted to commit "suicide by cop." When the vehicle reached the Los Penasquitos Lagoon, Trujillo got out of the vehicle. Two deputies opened fire and shot Trujillo in the upper torso. Read the full report released by the DA's office here. 

The video was released by the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office as they announced their review determined the San Diego County sheriff’s deputies who opened fire in this incident acted reasonably.

Robert Westbrook - September 8, 2017

Robert Westbrook, 31, was shot by a deputy after he allegedly refused to follow commands, pulling out a replica handgun in the confrontation. State Route 125 was closed for hours as a result of the incident. San Diego County sheriff's deputies were initially called to check on the welfare of a man who was threatening to harm himself. Westbrook was found inside a parked car on the freeway. Deputies say Westbrook stepped out of the car with a handgun. That's when the deputy opened fire, striking and injuring him. Read the DA's investigation results for this case here.

Guillermo Corrales - April 16, 2018

Guillermo Corrales died while in custody after a family member called 911 to report Corrales may be under the influence of drugs and was injuring himself. San Diego police officers found Corrales being held down by his nephew because he had been thrashing about and hitting his head on the floor. Officers handcuffed him and called for paramedics to enter the bedroom. Soon after, paramedics determined Corrales' heart had stopped and asked officers to remove the handcuffs so they could continue CPR. He was rushed to a nearby hospital. The medical examiner determined the cause of death was the effects of methamphetamine. Corrales also had fentanyl "on board," Stephan said. 

Jason Santana - November 29, 2017

Jason Santana was in a stolen car in a closed city park. Officers awakened Santana and his companion and interviewed them. Santana was told to keep his hands in view, Stephan said. 

"Suddenly Mr. Santana reached forward, started the car's engine and tried to close the car's driver's door while simultaneously putting the car in reverse," Stephan said. 

The driver's door struck the officer and knocked him over, she said. 

"The officer fired his pistol once as he moved out of the way of the vehicle because he feared he was going to get run over," the district attorney said. 

Santana was struck in the arm and drove off. He was eventually taken into custody and has been sentenced to three years in custody. 

Read the results of the DA's Office review here.

The video released by the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office on Dec. 14, 2018 was shown as the DA discussed how the actions of law enforcement officers were reasonable in this shooting.

Other cases reviewed involved Paul Rivera and Javier Gomez.

Not all video from all the reviews was screened due to time constraints. 

Contact Us