SANTA ANA (CBSLA) — For the fourth time in eight years, Orange County prosecutors have cleared an Anaheim police officer of criminal wrongdoing in a deadly shooting of a suspect while on duty, the district attorney’s office announced Tuesday.
Officer Nick Bennallack, who was cleared of three other on-duty deadly shootings of suspects since 2012, fatally shot 30-year-old Daniel Ramirez III on April 4, 2019.
In a letter dated Aug. 13 that was publicly released Tuesday, prosecutors informed Anaheim Police Department Chief Jorge Cisneros that Bennallack had been cleared of criminal culpability in Ramirez’s death.
Deputy District Attorney Andrew Bugman noted in the letter that there was “substantial evidence that Officer Bennallack’s actions were reasonable, necessary, and justified under the circumstances” and “insufficient evidence” to show Bennallack was criminally culpable.
According to Bugman, the conflict began when Irvine police were in Anaheim to serve a search warrant in the 500 block of North Harcourt Street for grand theft from a vehicle in March 2019. Video surveillance tipped off those in the garage that police were on their way, leading Ramirez and another man to hide.
According to Bugman, Ramirez threatened that he would shoot at officers before he eventually agreed to surrender, but when he came down from the attic, he refused to lie down and instead ran toward the back of the garage.
An officer then shot Ramirez with a sponge projectile that struck him in the right lower back, making him scream, Bugman said. Ramirez then appeared to reach for his waist, which led to him being shot again with another less-lethal round.
“Officer Bennallack, who also saw Ramirez reach for his waist and observed a bulge in Ramirez’s waistband area above his buttocks, believed Ramirez was concealing a gun,” Bugman wrote. “Officer Bennallack yelled, ‘He’s got a gun,’ and then fired five rounds from his rifle, striking Ramirez.”
Ramirez was pronounced dead at the scene, an a subsequent search found Ramirez was not armed, though there were loaded firearms in the garage.
An autopsy showed Ramirez had amphetamine and methamphetamine in his system.
Back in November 2017, a federal court jury awarded $200,000 the family of 25-year-old Manuel Angel Diaz, who was fatally shot by Bennallack in July 2012. A jury had earlier found that Bennallack used excessive force.
The district attorney’s office found his actions were justified.
In June 2015, Orange County prosecutors again concluded that Bennallack, as well as five other officers, were justified when they fatally shot 43-year-old Steen Thomas Parker in September 2014.
In that shooting, officers fatally shot Parker after he refused repeated orders to surrender and opened fire on officers after being struck by a bean bag round, prosecutors said.
In December 2012, Bennallack was cleared of criminal wrongdoing in the January 2012 shooting of 36-year-old Bernie Villegas.
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