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CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8 | cbs8.com

Escondido police release video of fatal shooting of man by officer

The man killed was identified in the video as 59-year-old Steven Olson. Police said he advanced on Officer Chad Moore with a crowbar before the officer opened fire.

ESCONDIDO, Calif. — Content warning: The video in this story depicts the shooting of a man by police and may be disturbing to some viewers.

The Escondido Police Department on Thursday released video from a body-worn camera and surveillance cameras that shows an officer fatally shooting a man last week and the events leading up to the incident. The man killed was identified in the video as 59-year-old Steven Olson. 

The video includes commentary from Escondido Police Chief Ed Varso, who said an investigation into the shooting is underway, and Lt. Kevin Toth who provides a narrative of what police say occurred the day of the shooting.

The video opens with audio of a 911 call reporting a white male hitting vehicles with a metal pole or crowbar in a downtown Escondido parking lot. Lt. Toth states that the call came in just before 7 a.m. on April 21 and that an officer located the man minutes later behind a building in the 200 block of West Second Avenue. 

According to Toth, the officer asked the man who was known to police and later identified to the public as Steven Olson to put the objects in his hand down so they could discuss the 911 call. The items were identified as a crowbar and window squeegee, according to police. 

"Olson displayed erratic behavior and was speaking incoherently," Lt. Toth said. "However he displayed no threatening behaviors and he ultimately ran away." 

This part of Toth's commentary is followed by body-worn camera footage of the initial contact between the officer and Olson. Lt. Toth states that Olson was displaying signs and symptoms of being under the influence of "a central nervous system stimulant," but that the officer chose not to pursue him and force a confrontation. 

The officer stayed on the scene to speak with the person who called 911 initially, according to Lt. Toth. 

Another officer, identified in the video as Officer Chad Moore, was responding to an unrelated burglary in the area and a few minutes later encountered Olson on Second Avenue and Broadway, Toth said. Moore recognized Olson as the subject of the 911 call and Toth said: "he had had numerous contacts with him in the past." 

Moore addressed Olson using a loudspeaker in his police vehicle but Olson did not respond, according to police.

"As Officer Moore exited his vehicle, Olson immediately advanced on him," Toth said. "Olson had dropped the squeegee in the roadway and holding only the crowbar." 

According to Toth, Olson continued to advance on Officer Moore while saying, "You've got some problem and you're going to get hit." 

Moore drew his handgun, gave commands for Olson to drop the pole and issued "use of force" warnings while he backed away for approximately 65 feet, according to police. 

Officer Moore fired seven rounds at Olson from a distance of about seven feet, Toth says in the video as an animation depicting the locations of Moore and Olson on the street is shown. 

The next part of the video is from Moore's body-worn camera and includes Toth repeating the chain of events leading to the officer shooting Olson. Subtitles are also included of what the officer and subject were reportedly saying. 

"Steven, you're gonna get shot," Moore is heard saying along with telling Olson to drop the "pipe" in his hand.

"Steven, I'm going to shoot you. Drop that pipe now. Drop it," Moore said just before shooting Olson. 

The video is blurred when the shots are fired. 

Moore is heard calling for medics and other police vehicles are seen arriving at the scene shortly after. 

The other officers began providing medical aid, according to Toth. The video continues to be blurred when it shows Olson but appears to depict an officer doing chest compressions. 

Olson was transported to a hospital where he was pronounced dead, according to Toth. 

The video continues with a history of police encounters with Steven Olson and showing crime scene photos from previous incidents with the man. 

Olson was arrested four times over the past year for threatening people with deadly weapons including a knife, a boxcutter, a piece of metal and a stick, according to Toth. Olson previously went to prison for assault with a deadly weapon. Toth said that Olson had been the subject of 23 calls to police since the start of 2021. 

Since 2015, Olson had been placed on five mental health holds at local hospitals. 

Chief Varso concludes the video by saying in part, "As you just saw, Steven Olson had an extensive pattern of violent criminal behavior. I do not share this to vilify him. Steven needed intensive help. Instead, he was placed into a seriously flawed revolving-door system that processes people from jail to the streets to services to the streets back to jail and back to the streets." 

The day of the shooting a witness, 47-year-old Laban Davis, who has been homeless since 1993, told News 8 Olson did not appear to be a threat and only had in hand a squeegee and a small gardening tool used to pull out weeds. The latter is what police have said was a crowbar.

"He came out of the alley, and he started walking up and down and then all in the road talking a bunch of crazy stuff. He was going like this up toward the cop and really the police officer had no reason to shoot him. He wasn't really no threat. He was crazy but was not swinging at the cop, he was just walking up to him, and the cop shot him over here,” Davis said last week. 

Homeless advocate Michael McConnell had joined other activists in calling on police to release this body cam video. McConnell does not believe police did enough to de-escalate the situation that led to Olson's fatal shooting.

"I kept waiting for the de-escalation tactics," McConnell said after viewing the video. "It doesn't seem like there was an interest in de-escalation."

McConnell pointed to another recent incident in which an Escondido police officer was shown resolving a confrontation with a homeless man wielding a wooden pole by Tazing him and then placing him under arrest.

"Obviously they use other de-escalation tactics," McConnell added. "They use less-lethal force."

A vigil for Steven Olson is planned for Friday, April 30 at 7 p.m. at Broadway and Second Avenue in Escondido. Participants are asked to bring flowers and candles. 

Credit: WeThePeopleEscondido

WATCH: Escondido Police investigating after an officer-involved shooting leaves a man dead