The state Department of Justice is investigating a San Diego police shooting in City Heights last week that left one dead — the department’s first investigation into a shooting by local law enforcement under a a relatively new state law, officials said.
The shooting happened around 1 p.m. Thursday on 42nd Street near University Avenue. According to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, San Diego police responded to reports of a man who was seen holding a gun to his head.
The man’s name had not been released Monday evening. The sheriff’s department was investigating the shooting in accordance with a countywide protocol that ensures local law enforcement does not investigate shootings by their own officers or deputies.
Sheriff’s Lt. Chris Steffen said Monday that the weapon, which officers apparently believed to be a real firearm, “appears to be a BB or pellet gun.”
Under Assembly Bill 1506, which took effect last year, the Justice Department is investigating fatal police shootings of civilians who were unarmed or had replica guns. firearm, such as an airsoft gun. The department does not generally investigate shootings in which the person who was shot was armed with a BB gun or pellet gun.
The department considers BB guns and pellet guns to be lethal weapons, not replicas, according to a bulletin it issued to law enforcement in late June last year.
The department launched its investigation into the City Heights shooting because it was initially unclear if the gun was real, Steffen said.
Although the weapon the man had in his possession during last week’s incident now appears to have been a BB gun or pellet gun, the Justice Department has decided to pursue its investigation, Steffen said. .
This is the first time the Justice Department has stepped in to investigate a local police shooting since AB 1506 took effect, state and local officials said. The Department of Justice launched teams to investigate the cases according to law in July 2021.
Thursday’s shooting unfolded after police responded to reports of a man riding a bicycle and holding a gun to his head on Central Avenue near Orange Avenue.
When officers arrived, the man ran into an alley, where he again held a gun to his head and demanded officers shoot him, Sheriff’s Lt. Kevin Ralph said last week.
The man then took off, Ralph said.
On 42nd Street, the man “pulled the gun out” and officers ordered him to drop it, Ralph said.
The man did not comply and officers fired beanbags, Ralph said.
The man was hit and fell to the ground. As he stood up, gun drawn, three officers shot him, Ralph said.
The man died before he could be taken to hospital.
The Justice Department was notified of the shooting and deployed a team of investigators to the scene, according to the state attorney general’s office. Once the investigation is complete, it will be handed over to a team of Justice Department prosecutors who will review the case to determine if criminal charges against the officers are warranted.
The sheriff’s department said in a statement that it would coordinate “investigative efforts” with the Justice Department.
Ralph said the shooting was caught on the officers’ body-worn cameras. State law requires police to release video of police shootings within 45 days. The San Diego Police Department aims to comply within 10 days, according to its website.
The names of the officers who shot the man were not released on Monday.
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