San Diego's police chief said Tuesday that an officer was suspended without pay and his police powers revoked after published reports circulated of an Instagram post allegedly uploaded by the officer, who was involved in the fatal shooting of a man in June. The posts showed a photo of the man's memorial plastered with crying-from laughing and crying emojis.
“The officer’s alleged actions fall short of the high standards I and our community have for the San Diego Police Department," SD police chief David Nisleit said shortly after 3 p.m. "I want to apologize to the Ibarra family. This unnecessary act reopens wounds during an already painful time."
Leonardo Ibarra, 25, was shot by San Diego police officers on June 27, 2020, on Sixth Avenue in downtown San Diego. Just after 5:45 p.m., Ibarra was walking down a sidewalk when a pair of officers spotted him. The officers believed he matched the description of a man – including distinctive face tattoos – being sought as a suspect in a June 21 robbery.
Officials said later in June that the officers involved were Lucas and Tevar Zaki, both of the SDPD Central Division.
According to the SDPD, when Lucas and Zaki tried to approach Ibarra, he began running away. Ibarra reached into his waistband, pulled out a handgun and pointed it at the officers, the police department said. The officers fired their service weapons, hitting Ibarra, and he collapsed.
Ibarra's family told NBC 7 that Ibarra was shot 11 times.
After the shooting, Ibarra was cuffed and taken to UC San Diego Medical Center where he underwent emergency surgery. He later died of his injuries.
Less than 24 hours after shooting Ibarra, the police department released four videos of the encounter. The clips show the seconds leading up to the gunfire.
One video was recorded on a smart streetlight camera. When it was slowed down and magnified by police, it showed a closer view of Ibarra. The SDPD said Ibarra can be seen pointing a gun at one of the two officers.
Nisleit said on Tuesday that the post violated departmental policies. Ibarra's family said it brought them back to the day he was killed.
"He's taken us right back. Like the days haven't passed," Ibarra's aunt Veronica Hurtado said. "It's starting all over again from that day."
“We do have policies that do not allow us to put Tweets or posts on social media about our job ... individual posts from officers, it is against policy to put posts, especially of this nature," Nisleit said on Tuesday.
The case is being reviewed by the San Diego County District Attorney's Office to determine if the officers bear any criminal liability for their actions. The Community Review Board on Police Practices will also conduct a review of the incident and provide any appropriate recommendations, according to the department.
"I want to assure our community that I do not take these allegations lightly," Nisleit said. "Officers take an oath to protect and value all life."
Nisleit also said he launched an internal investigation into Lucas' actions and promised that the department would be "thorough and transparent with our findings, and I will not hesitate to hold our officers accountable."
“This is a priority investigation for this department," the chief added. "I’ve made that very clear to the commanding officer of internal affairs. So this will be the highest priority for that office…. We’re going to take enough time to be extremely thorough and get to the bottom of exactly what happened, what was posted and determine that.”
Depending upon the determination of the internal-affairs investigation, it's possible that Lucas could be fired for the Instagram post.
“[The penalty] could be from a suspension all the way to a termination, and again, I will make that determination upon the conclusion of the investigation.”
Hurtado said she'd prefer if Lucas never put on another uniform.
"I don't want to see him being an officer not only in San Diego County, but the whole United States," she said.