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San Diego County District Attorney releases videos, reviews of 4 officer-involved shootings, 1 death in custody

The DA’s office said drugs and/or mental illness were a factor in three of the incidents. No officers were found to bear state criminal liability in any of the cases
Credit: San Diego County DA's office

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — The San Diego County District Attorney’s office on Wednesday released its legal reviews, which included video footage, of four officer-involved shootings and one in-custody death that happened throughout the county between June 2019 and February 2020. Each incident was summarized in a document released by the DA’s office along with a link to more detailed letters that were provided to law enforcement agencies.  

The DA’s office said drugs and/or mental illness were a factor in three of the incidents. No officers were found to bear state criminal liability in any of the cases. 

“We strive to conduct our reviews in an efficient and timely manner, balancing the process with the time needed for the law enforcement agencies to thoroughly investigate the case,” a statement by San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan read in part.  

Each incident is summarized below with video released by the DA's office and a link to the detailed letter along with related News 8 coverage.  

Officer-involved shootings in chronological order 

San Diego police officer-involved fatal shooting of man wielding a shovel – Aug. 24, 2019  

The San Diego Police Department received a call on Aug. 24, 2019, from a woman reporting her nephew’s erratic behavior in the El Cerrito area. Two officers were dispatched to the scene and were told 52-year-old Dennis Carolino had thrown a brick at his aunt. The officers interviewed the victim who reported Carolino was diagnosed with schizophrenia.  

According to the DA’s report, officers then tried to locate the man to evaluate him for a mental health referral. They entered a backyard and were moving toward a shed where Carolino had been living when the suspect “suddenly” opened the shed door and charged toward officers with a long-handled shovel.  

Officers issued commands for Carolino to drop the shovel but he reportedly continued to advance on them ignoring their orders.

“Both officers believed Carolino was going to hit them with the shovel,” the DA's summary read in part. 

One officer deployed a taser and the other fired his handgun striking Carolino five times.  

Life-saving measures were attempted but the suspect was pronounced dead at the scene.  

“A review by the District Attorney found the officer used his gun in defense of himself, the civilian witness and the other officer. Based on these circumstances, the officer who fired his handgun acted reasonably and bears no state criminal liability for his actions,” the DA’s summary concluded.  

More details can be found here and at the links below. Video of the incident can be seen below. San Diego police previously released body-worn camera footage of the incident. 

San Diego police officer-involved fatal shooting of man who grabbed officer’s gun during struggle – Jan 24, 2020  

Two San Diego police officers observed 31-year-old Toby Diller illegally holding an open container of alcohol on Jan. 24, 2020 in the Oak Park area and stopped their patrol car to speak with him. Diller reportedly immediately ran away and into lanes of traffic on 54th Street.  

Officers chased Diller on foot, according to the DA’s report, and issued commands for him to stop. The suspect then tripped, got back up, and was tackled in the middle of a frontage road.  

“Both officers were positioned over Diller as a violent struggle ensued,” the DA’s summary read in part.  

During the struggle, Diller grabbed the gun of one of the officers and managed to break it loose from his duty belt. When the officer saw the suspect had his holster in his hand and appeared to be trying to remove the gun from it he yelled, “He has my gun. Shoot him.” The other officer fired one shot at Diller striking him in the left cheek. The suspect was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.  

An autopsy showed methamphetamine in the suspect’s system.  

The DA’s office concluded that based on the circumstances and “imminent nature of the threat posed by Diller’s possession of a loaded handgun” the use of force was reasonable and the officer bears no state criminal liability.

More details can be found here and at the links below. Video of the incident can be seen below. SDPD previously released footage of the shooting.  

   

El Cajon officer-involved non-fatal shooting of suspect in stolen car – Feb. 12, 2020  

The district attorney’s summary calls this incident an attempted “suicide by cop” scenario.  

Two El Cajon police officers responded to a report of a stolen vehicle on Feb. 12, 2020, and reportedly found the car parked on South Johnson Avenue. When an officer approached the car the single occupant of the vehicle, 21-year-old Keith Crenshaw appeared to be asleep in the driver’s seat. A third officer along with a member of the Psychiatric Emergency Response Team (PERT) also arrived. The PERT clinician stayed near the patrol vehicle because the scene was not secure, according to authorities.

When it appeared Crenshaw woke up one officer drew his gun and instructed the suspect to “show his hands, put up his hands, and get his hands out of his shirt” at least 10 times, according to the DA’s report. The other officers also issued similar instructions “at least five times” as Crenshaw’s hands were concealed under his clothing.  

According to the report, Crenshaw did not comply with orders and told officers, “shoot me.”  

“Crenshaw moved his right hand towards his waistband and made jolting and jerking movements toward one of the officers through the open passenger door,” the report summary read in part.  

One of the officers then fired two rounds striking the suspect in the upper body and arm. After he was shot, Crenshaw remained conscious and reportedly told police, “kill me, please.” He then complied with orders to remove his hands from his shirt.  

Officers removed the suspect from the vehicle and provided medical aid until paramedics arrived. Crenshaw was taken to a hospital where he was treated for non-fatal gunshot wounds. No weapons were found in the vehicle.  

Crenshaw survived and later gave a recorded statement confirming the officer’s observations that he simulated actions wanting the officer to believe he had a gun saying it was because he wanted the officer to shoot him. 

The DA’s review found that the officer’s actions were justified, and he bears no state criminal liability.  

More details can be found here and video of the incident can be seen below.    

San Diego police officer-involved non-fatal shooting of man in homeless encampment – Feb. 27, 2020  

San Diego Police Department officers were in a joint operation with the Chula Vista Police Department, San Diego Park Rangers and Environmental Services on Feb. 27, 2020. Officers and park rangers went into a homeless encampment and located 70-year-old Carlos Soto. He was the sole occupant of the encampment inside one of its structures.  

SDPD officers identified themselves and instructed the man to come out of the structure. As he emerged, an officer saw what was believed to be the butt of a handgun in Soto’s right front jacket pocket. Another officer also saw the gun which was later determined to be a BB air pistol.  

Officer gave Soto commands to get on the ground but he instead grabbed the gun from his pocket. Both officers fired and Soto sustained three non-life-threatening gunshot wounds.  

The DA concluded that the actions of the officers were justified and they bear no state criminal liability.  

More details can be found here and video of the incident can be seen below. 

 

In-custody death 

Man dies from methamphetamine toxicity after being detained by San Diego police for burglary -  June 11, 2019 

The San Diego Police Department was called on June 11, 2019, by a man reporting a burglary who said he found an unknown man inside his home. A responding officer arrived with a PERT clinician and made contact with 40-year-old Buddie Nichols.  

Nichols reportedly resisted the officer’s handcuffing efforts. Two other officers arrived and together the three were able to handcuff the suspect.  

“Nichols resisted enough that the officers used physical force in order to take him into custody by hitting him with a flashlight on his shoulder,” the DA’s summary read in part.  

Nichols displayed symptoms of being under the influence of a controlled substance before and after he was handcuffed. The suspect was screaming and thrashing as officers held him in place on the ground, according to authorities.  

Officers requested paramedics and then noticed the suspect appeared to be unconscious. Handcuffs were removed as it appeared Nichols may be in medical distress.  

When paramedics arrived, they could not find a pulse on the man and began CPR. Nichols was transported to UCSD hospital where he was pronounced dead.  

The medical examiner determined Nichols’ cause of death to be “resuscitated arrest due to sudden cardiac arrhythmia due to excited delirium while intoxicated on methamphetamine” and the manner of death was listed as “accident.”  

The DA’s report concluded that law enforcement involved in the restraint of Nichols acted “reasonably” and bear no state criminal liability for their actions.  

More details can be found here and video of the incident can be seen below.