SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Police Department has released body cam video of officers shooting a mentally ill woman, more than two years after the incident took place.
A First Amendment attorney had to intervene and threaten a lawsuit, before SDPD agreed to make the video public.
The video shows SDPD officers in a standoff on May 23, 2020 with Rosa Calva, 26, inside her East Village apartment on Market Street.
Calva is locked inside a bathroom and armed with a knife, but she is not threatening to hurt anyone.
The body camera video of the incident was withheld by SDPD for the past two years.
A request for its release under the California Public Records Act by activist Tasha Williamson had been denied. SDPD claimed it did not have to release the video because of an ongoing investigation.
“The police department had a fundamental misunderstanding of basic transparency law. They thought they could withhold critical incident audio and video, while criminal charges were pending,” said David Loy, the legal director at the First Amendment Coalition.
The Bay Area nonprofit sent a letter to SDPD in April, threatening to sue the department if it did not release the body cam video.
“There has been a statewide campaign of resistance to police transparency and accountability. This is just one example,” said Loy. “The California Public Records Act should not require a lawyer to enforce it. Agencies should be honoring their obligations without being sued.”
The newly released video showed Calva holding a knife straight up in the air, while an officer holds on to her wrist. That’s when SDPD officer Andres Ruiz opened fire, shooting Calva four times in the stomach.
Calva survived her injuries.
“This video does raise serious concerns about whether and to what extent the officers failed to deescalate, failed to take their time and be patient with a woman who was clearly experiencing a very severe mental health crisis,” said Roy.
Records released by SDPD showed the San Diego County District Attorney’s office found the shooting justified because Calva failed to drop the knife.
SDPD emailed CBS 8 the following statement:
“The San Diego Police Department holds its members to the highest professional standards. We hear the community’s concerns about this incident. Officer-involved shootings are rare, and the review process is extremely thorough. At the time of this incident, all officer-involved shootings were investigated by the San Diego Police Department's Homicide Unit. This investigation was forwarded to the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office for review. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Attorney’s Office monitor this investigation. The Internal Affairs Unit investigates to determine if SDPD’s own policies and procedures were followed. The City of San Diego’s Independent Commission on Police Practices, which is made up of community members selected by elected officials, reviews these investigations. These findings are released pursuant to state law under Senate Bills 1421 and 16. The Shooting Review Board evaluates the tactics used by the officers and what could or should have been done differently. Even if a shooting is deemed lawful and within policy, the department continues to review the tactics and actions of the officer to determine if there are learning points which can be incorporated into training going forward. SDPD is committed to transparency. The release of official documents, including internal investigations, is governed by several state laws by which all law enforcement agencies must abide. These laws prohibit the release of certain materials. SDPD releases or withholds all records in compliance with the current laws and mandates.”
Rosa Calva was found mentally incompetent to stand trial. She was placed in a mental health diversion program. If she completes her treatment, criminal charges will be dismissed.
WATCH: SDPD body cam video of shooting incident. WARNING GRAPHIC VIDEO: