SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A Southern California police officer was justified in shooting to death a man forced from his locked van by a gushing hose after he threatened to set himself on fire, authorities said on Wednesday.
After investigating the shooting, the Orange County District Attorney’s office found that officers had been negotiating with Michael Anthony Perez, 33, for about an hour to try to get him to exit the van and when he finally did he reached for a knife on his hip.
“The mere fact that he’s saying he doesn’t want to get arrested, he doesn’t want to go to jail, he’s not going to listen to their commands, that doesn’t mean the police officers turn around and go home,” Assistant District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh told reporters. “They still have a job to do and that’s what they did on that day.”
The report comes seven months after the dramatic incident captured on cellphone video by a bystander in a strip mall parking lot in the city of Orange.
The district attorney’s office released additional video Wednesday as part of a new policy aimed at increasing transparency. On that video, officers are heard trying to coax Perez from the van.
Orange police tried to pull over Perez on March 12 after seeing he had a broken taillight and discovering he had an arrest warrant stemming from driving without a valid license, Baytieh said.
Perez, who had prior weapons and drug charges, resisted but eventually stopped in the parking lot of a mall that included a 24-hour laundry.
Police tried to negotiate with Perez, who had a gas can inside the van and lit a cigarette and threatened to start a fire. Officers turned on a fire hose inside the van and a shirtless Perez can be seen on video climbing out the driver’s side window.
Moments later, voices are heard yelling “knife!” while one officer struggled with Perez and another fired a non-lethal round in an attempt to stop him, the report said.
When Perez reached for another knife on his hip, officer Carlos Gutierrez shot him, Baytieh said.
Perez was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. Two knives were found at the scene.
Toxicology tests later found methamphetamine in Perez’s blood.
The district attorney’s office did not know whether Perez’s family had hired a lawyer. A message was left for Orange’s city attorney.