Sixteen local law enforcement officers have been cleared of criminal liability in four separate police shootings and two in-custody deaths, according to reviews released Monday by the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.
The incidents date from 2021 to 2022, and happened in San Diego, Chula Vista and National City.
Of the four shootings, three were fatal.
In the lone non-fatal shooting, officers opened fire on a man who pointed a gun at a San Diego Harbor police officer on April 10, 2022.
According to the D.A.’s Office, Eric Jesus Medina, 29, drove to San Diego Harbor police headquarters and requested assistance.
When Officer James MacMaster responded to the request, Medina pointed a handgun at him, according to the D.A.’s review. MacMaster fired at Medina and two other officers inside the station — Sgt. Scott Ferraioli and Lt. Victor Banuelos — saw the gunfire and shot at Medina.
Medina ultimately dropped his gun and surrendered. He was hospitalized for multiple gunshot wounds.
Medina was later convicted of assault on a peace officer with a semi-automatic weapon and was sentenced earlier this year to nine years in state prison.
The D.A.’s review states MacMaster fired “believing his life was in danger” and he “did not have an opportunity to deescalate as Medina produced the firearm almost immediately after the contact began.” Ferraioli and Banuelos fired only after the gun battle had already begun, prosecutors said.
The three fatal shootings involved San Diego, Chula Vista, and National City police officers.
The SDPD shooting happened on Oct. 18, 2022, after SDPD received reports of a man with a gun at Humberto’s Taco Shop on 43rd Street.
The D.A.’s Office says 33-year-old Derrick Weatherspoon was spotted running out of the taco shop as SDPD Officers Freddy Najera-Arredondo and Justin Morrison arrived.
Prosecutors say Weatherspoon pointed a handgun at the officers and opened fire, prompting them to shoot back. Weatherspoon was shot multiple times and died at the scene.
In Chula Vista, prosecutors say 32-year-old Bradley Munroe assaulted his mother, then advanced towards Chula Vista police Officer Alphonso Perdomo with a knife, prompting his fatal shooting.
Perdomo responded on Dec. 18, 2022, for reports of a man hitting a woman at a shopping center on Broadway.
The D.A.’s Office said Perdomo first saw Munroe striking a pickup truck with a metal object. The officer ordered him to stop and noticed Munroe was holding a knife.
The D.A.’s Office said Munroe ignored multiple commands to drop the knife and walked towards Perdomo with the knife in his hand.
Perdomo fired six times, killing Munroe. The D.A.’s review states Munroe was “within approximately two car spaces” of Perdomo when the officer started shooting.
The D.A.’s Office said Perdomo ordered Munroe to drop the knife four times and also told him to get on the ground and not approach him.
“Perdomo ultimately fired his weapon only after employing other techniques to deescalate the situation,” such as bringing out a police dog as a deterrent.
In National City, 29-year-old Brian Umana was shot and killed on Oct. 8, 2021. Prosecutors allege he brandished a machete at National City police officers Evan Davis and Michael Sportelli.
The officers responded for reports of a man armed with a sword trying to break into a storage facility.
Though the suspect was gone from the storage facility, the officers later found Umana — who matched the suspect description — with a machete.
The D.A.’s review states Umana “refused to put down the machete and began walking away from the officers” and towards the storage facility.
At some point, an officer whose name was not disclosed used a stun gun on Umana, but it was ineffective.
Umana then stepped towards officers “while raising the machete as though he was going to strike them” and was shot multiple times. He died at the scene.
The D.A.’s review states, “the use of force was a direct reaction to Umana’s raising the matchete in a manner that was consistent with an attempt to strike one or both of the officers…”
The two in-custody deaths both occurred in San Diego, shortly after each person was arrested.
The first occurred on Oct. 9, 2022, when San Diego police responded to a family disturbance call, in which family members were restraining 23-year-old Denny Jalate.
Family members told police Jalate had set a fire in the backyard, threatened to kill his stepfather and thrown bricks at the home and a car.
According to the D.A.’s review, officers arrived to find Jalate face down on the ground. He was unresponsive and officers were unable to find a pulse. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Following an autopsy, Jalate’s cause of death was found to be strangulation, apparently due to be restrained by his family. The D.A.’s review states a separate investigation explored potential criminal charges against “certain civilians” but there was insufficient evidence to charge anyone.
Further, the four SDPD officers who responded to the scene “acted reasonably,” the D.A.’s Office said, and “did not cause or contribute to Jalate’s strangulation.”
The second in-custody death happened on Dec. 8, 2022, when SDPD officers found 35-year-old Daniel Joseph Armenta lying in the road outside the U-Haul property near 43rd Street and El Cajon Boulevard.
The D.A.’s review states Armenta was found “crawling on his hands and knees on the sidewalk” and appeared to be under the influence of drugs.
One officer detained and handcuffed him, and soon after he became unresponsive. Armenta was given Narcan and did not respond. Other officers arrived and began giving him chest compressions until paramedics arrived, but he never regained consciousness and died at the scene.
An autopsy found that his cause of death “was the toxic effects of methamphetamine,” the D.A.’s review states.
The D.A.’s Office said the four officers who responded to the scene used “minimal and appropriate force” in their contact with Armenta and “constantly monitored” him throughout.
City News Service contributed to this article.