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A National City Family's quest for answers in the police shooting that left Brian Umana dead

Brian Umana was seen pacing barefoot, armed with a machete when police arrived on the scene. Minutes later he was dead.

NATIONAL CITY, Calif. — It's been slightly over one year since Roberto Umana's brother, Brian, was shot and killed by National City Police Officers, and Umana says he and his family are still searching for information about the shooting, a police report, an autopsy report, and reasons why his 28-year-old brother is dead.

"It kind of just infuriates me, you know, like, I can never get a straight answer," says 22-year-old Roberto Umana about the October 8, 2021 police shooting. "It's just,I just don't know where to go from here. It's wrong. Like, it's wrong, you know, my brother passed away. He wasn't, you know, he, he wasn't an object that you could just get rid of. He was a person. He was a brother. He was a father. He was a, you know, he was my best friend."

On October 25, Umana, his mother, and his niece filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit against the National City Police Department and started a petition urging that officials provide answers to him and his family and make sure changes happen so that no other families have to go through what he and his family have.

"This is something that needs to be fixed. Especially when people have mental health issues. My brother, he was not okay, you know, and obviously, you could tell by the body cam footage, that he was not okay. You know, this person was going through something, and they just took his life away."

Credit: Roberto Umana
Photo of Roberto Umana and his daughter

The Shooting

It was just after 4:30 in the morning on a rainy October 8, 2021, when National City Police Officers encountered 28-year-old, Brian Umana.

Umana was shuffling barefoot, up and down the sidewalk on 33rd Street near National City Boulevard. He held a machete in his right hand. 

Less than ten minutes had transpired before Umana was dead, shot multiple times after he raised the machete as a police dog approached him, only seconds after police deployed a single taser round.

As seen in the police body camera footage, posted by the Union-Tribune, officers arrived at the scene and found Umana pacing along on the sidewalk.

A worker at a storage facility called the police after Umana set off an alarm at the storage building.

The body cam footage, which was not provided to CBS 8, shows an officer holding back a K9, telling Umana to, "drop the stick, show me your hands or you're going to get bit by a police dog."

Umana, according to the footage, said nothing.

The commands from one of the officers continued for one minute before one officer asked another officer about getting a beanbag weapon. 

Nearly one minute later an officer asks for Umana's name. 

Umana responded.

At 4:36 am, approximately six minutes after police arrived, officers deployed a taser while letting the K9 charge at Umana. 

Umana raised the machete and police fired multiple shots, killing Umana instantly.

Roberto Umana says his brother battled bipolar disease and had shown signs of schizophrenia. 

"You know, he was a good son, a good brother, a good father. You know, he did have mental health issues. He would have these days where he was off, you know, but other than that, he was a great guy," said Umana.

Umana tells CBS 8 that he watched a clip of the body cam footage that police released to the Union Tribune. 

Watching it the one time, Umana says he is left with more questions than before.

"Why didn't they try more? Why didn't they try different tactics to control the situation? Why couldn't they pepper spray or use a beanbag? There were two officers why did only one deploy their taser? Why didn't they call for backup? Why didn't they have a standoff? You know, it's only one guy, you know, he's not a big guy. He's 5'5". You know, he's not like this bodybuilder, huge guy," wondered Umana.

The Days Turn Into Months

The family's questions about the shooting, however, remain unanswered, as Umana says they have heard next to nothing from the National City Police Department.

Even on the day of the shooting, Umana says he and his mother suspected the person who police shot that morning was his brother. Brian had not returned home that morning. Umana's mother also saw a man at the scene of the shooting wearing similar clothes as Brian Umana. 

A television news reporter provided additional details which made them believe that Brian Umana was the victim. 

The next day, not hearing anything, Umana called the Medical Examiner's Office.

"I was asking questions, you know, and my brother had a specific haircut. So I asked the examiner if the person [who was shot] had that haircut. He was like, yeah. I asked him if he has a tattoo of the letter 'M' On his finger and a diamond tattooed on his shoulder, yes. That's when I knew it was Brian."

But now, one year later, Umana says he and his family are taking matters into their own hands, filing a lawsuit without an attorney to represent them against the police department. 

He also hopes that creating the petition may change for others what their family will never be able to change.

"I see my mother breaking down," says Umana. "My mother is heartbroken. I can't even put into words how heartbroken she is. I search for answers but I can't get the autopsy report. It's sealed. I asked for the police report and the body cam footage, it's the same thing. It's under review. No contact back. No, no phone call back. No email back. Nothing. It's very frustrating."

CBS 8 reached out to National City Police Department, and the City Attorney for National City for comment. The departments did not respond. 

According to a statement from a spokesperson for the District Attorney's Office, the case is still under review.

Watch excerpts from the interview with Roberto Umana below:

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