SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A patrolman was legally justified in opening fire on a mentally ill man during a violent struggle that erupted during a Lomita-area traffic stop, the District Attorney's Office concluded in a ruling released Tuesday.
San Diego police Officer JaRodd Jones shot 31-year-old Bobby Joe Kemp near the intersection of Carlsbad and San Vicente streets about 1 a.m. on July 8, Deputy District Attorney Damon Mosler wrote in a letter to SDPD Chief William Lansdowne.
Kemp, a diagnosed schizophrenic, recovered from a bullet wound to the abdomen.
Under California law, peace officers are empowered to use lethal means to prevent death or serious injury to themselves or others, Mosler noted.
"Based on the totality of the circumstances involved, it's apparent that Officer Jones fired in self-defense, and he therefore bears no criminal liability for his actions," the prosecutor wrote.
Jones decided to pull Kemp over after spotting him speeding and swerving through the neighborhood near Spring Valley, according to police.
Before the officer could activate his flashing lights, however, Kemp, a San Diego resident, stopped his car in the middle of the street, jumped out and ran toward the cruiser, Mosler wrote in his legal analysis.
The patrolman responded by getting out, drawing his gun and ordering Kemp to the ground. The suspect initially complied, but then got up, confronted Jones and started shoving him, according to the prosecutor.
At that point, the patrolman holstered his pistol, drew his stun gun and shot Kemp with it. Kemp fell to the ground, but then pulled the Taser barb out of his body, got up and ran off to the east.
Jones gave chase, discarding the stun gun and drawing his baton as he sprinted after the fleeing man. Catching up with Kemp a short distance away, the officer again ordered him to the get onto the ground, then struck him repeatedly with the billy club when he refused.
The suspect tried in vain to grab the baton before bolting again, this time heading back toward his car.
During another struggle near where the confrontation began, Kemp grappled with Jones, seemingly trying to tackle him. Moments later, the officer drew his 9 mm handgun again and shot the suspect.
Jones later told investigators he believed Kemp was intoxicated, not "all there" mentally and intent on disarming him.
"I was thinking about my immediate safety," the officer was quoted as saying. "I (felt) my uniform being ripped. I'm thinking that he's going for my gun. He's physically strong. I feared he would get my gun."
Several witnesses reported hearing Jones repeatedly shouting at Kemp to get onto the ground prior to opening fire, Mosler wrote. One resident said he "was about to go outside and help the officer because he thought the officer was in trouble," according to the prosecutor.
For his part, Kemp denied going after Jones' pistol but admitted to ignoring his orders and fighting with him, saying he did so because the patrolman "looked possessed."
"I started to talk to him, and that's when he had his gun drawn, and that's when he shot me ... like, close range," Kemp said. "I have problems... but I don't need to get shot for it."
Jones only resorted to potentially deadly force after the suspect ignored numerous commands and proved impervious to non-lethal compliance methods, Mosler concluded.
At that point, the officer reasonably "feared being overpowered and his weapon taken from him," the prosecutor wrote.
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