SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) — The Orange County District Attorney announced Wednesday that police in Anaheim were justified in the fatal shooting of a suspect last July.
OC DA Tony Rackauckas said officer Nick Bennallack was justified when he fatally shot 25-year-old suspect Manuel Diaz in the 600 block of North Anna Drive on July 21.
The dead man’s family has filed a $50 million wrongful death suit against the city of Anaheim and Bennallack.
Authorities said Diaz and two companions ran when they were approached by officers. Police also claimed Diaz was a known gang member. His family denies Diaz was in a gang.
The DA called the case one of “self defense” although no weapons were found on or near Diaz.
Orange County prosecutors on Dec. 21 cleared Bennallack of criminal wrongdoing in an unrelated Jan. 7, 2012, shooting of Bernie Villegas. The Villegas family is also suing Bennallack and the city.
Less than a day after the Diaz fatal shooting, Anaheim Officer Kelly Phillips fatally shot 21-year-old Joel Acevedo following a stolen-car pursuit. Officers said Acevedo fired at them.
The fatal shootings touched off days of citizen unrest, protests and rioting in Anaheim.
The DA said after interviewing dozens of witnesses, Bennallack was justified in fearing for his life in the Diaz shooting. The officer testified that he believed Diaz had a gun in his waistband and was about to turn to fire. “The suspect was holding an object I believed to be a firearm, and with two hands, with a weight and mass which led me to believe it wasn’t drugs or paraphernalia. As I began to fear for my life, I fired my weapon two times,” said the officer.
Diaz — who was reportedly under the influence of meth at the time of the incident – was shot twice, once in the head and once in the buttocks.
Gile spoke to Diaz’s mother, Genevieve Huizar, who choked back tears. “It’s disturbing, it’s very disturbing. There’s no justice. The DA is known for justifying these things. I want justice for my son. I want justice for so many others. It’s like he just got shot all over again.”