Two years after a San Diego Police Department officer shot a mentally ill woman inside her apartment, we’re seeing video for the first time of how it unfolded.
The San Diego County District Attorney cleared the officers of any wrongdoing, but that body cam video is raising questions about the officers’ use of force and why it took so long for the footage to be released.
Rosa Calva was going through a mental crisis while alone in her apartment the night of May 23, 2020, according to her mom, Rosa Maria Garcia.
“The police, they do too much to her,” Garcia said.
From her fourth-floor Park Boulevard apartment, a bystander filmed the 26-year-old breaking her window and throwing furniture and cleaning supplies out of it. The unidentified man said in the video that debris nearly missed his leg.
Several items captured by surveillance video hit the ground right outside Azteca Taco Shop. This prompted several 911 calls.
“There is people under the window and she’s throwing it haphazardly,” an unidentified caller said to 911 dispatch.
Another caller told dispatch, “I’m afraid she’s gonna maybe jump from there.”
When police arrived and entered Calva’s apartment, they said she was barricaded inside the bathroom with a knife.
Officers used verbal commands, shot several rounds of pepper bullets through a hole in the bathroom and then sent in a K-9. Police said when the dog stuck his head through the hole, Calva punched and grabbed him.
An officer then kicked in the door and within seconds four shots are fired. Calva falls to the ground and the K-9 drags her out of the bathroom by the arm.
Garcia told NBC 7 that she understands her daughter had a knife but wants to know why mental health professionals weren’t called to deescalate the situation first.
“My daughter, she has a mental problem; schizophrenia, bipolar, depression,” Garcia said. “She wasn’t taking her medicine in that time.”
Calva was later charged with assault with a deadly weapon on an officer and sent to a mental health facility.
Garcia said Calva was released in November on mental health diversion. The District Attorney’s Office would not comment on the case, but said after three years of probation Calva can apply to have her record cleared.
SDPD declined an on-camera interview but in a statement said:
“The San Diego Police Department holds its members to the highest professional standards. We hear the community’s concerns about this incident.
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Officer-involved shootings are rare, and the review process is extremely thorough. At the time of this incident, all officer-involved shootings were investigated by the San Diego Police Department's Homicide Unit. This investigation was forwarded to the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office for review. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Attorney’s Office monitor this investigation.
The Internal Affairs Unit investigates to determine if SDPD’s own policies and procedures were followed. The City of San Diego’s Independent Commission on Police Practices, which is made up of community members selected by elected officials, reviews these investigations. These findings are released pursuant to state law under Senate Bills 1421 and 16.
The Shooting Review Board evaluates the tactics used by the officers and what could or should have been done differently.
Even if a shooting is deemed lawful and within policy, the department continues to review the tactics and actions of the officer to determine if there are learning points which can be incorporated into training going forward.
SDPD is committed to transparency. The release of official documents, including internal investigations, is governed by several state laws by which all law enforcement agencies must abide. These laws prohibit the release of certain materials. SDPD releases or withholds all records in compliance with the current laws and mandates.”
Calva’s mom said her daughter now works at a laundromat and lives in city-provided housing. Calva has two of the four bullets still in her body because it would be harmful to remove them, Garcia said.
NBC 7 asked SDPD what took so long for the video to be released and is still waiting to hear back.
Garcia said they’re considering suing the police department but have not made a decision yet.