Deputies who last year fatally shot a Yucaipa man who fought them as they tried to place him under arrest were left with little choice but to use deadly force and were justified in their action, according to San Bernardino County District Attorney officials.
District Attorney investigators on Thursday released the findings of an investigation into an Oct. 26, 2011 officer involved shooting of Kenneth Munoz Jr.
The incident started with a call by Munoz’s co-worker. The unidentified co-worker told authorities he was trying to retrieve a company truck from Munoz’s home, in the 35000 block of B Avenue in Yucaipa , but had not been allowed to take it, according to the report.
Deputies responded and tried to question Munoz but, according to the officials, he refused to answer them. Deputies testified he was armed with a sprinkler head attached to a metal pipe and a second unidentified weapon.
Munoz reportedly took off running in the middle of the interview. Deputies tried to use a Tazer but he was able to elude it. More deputies arrived and the Sheriff’s helicopter was brought in to look for Munoz who was seen running through back yards, according to the report.
Authorities searched for some time and found him after a neighbor on B Avenue reported he was in their yard. Officials said they found him hiding in a tree in the back yard of a home that had overgrown vegetation. The bushes were so grown out, the officials had to stoop down to enter, according to the report. The yard was also described as very dark forcing deputies to rely heavily on their flashlights.
Munoz was ordered to lie down on the ground and he complied.
A deputy identified as J. Parea by DA investigators attempted to place their suspect in handcuffs Munoz jumped onto his knees, turned around punched the deputy in the face. The two began to struggle, according to the report.
Munoz reportedly grabbed Parea’s gun. The deputy tried to stop him and the gun went off as the two fought, according to the report. Parea eventually got the weapon back and moved away, allowing a Sgt. M. O’Brien and Deputy I. Diaz to open fire.
Munoz was shot 12 times. An autopsy found Munoz had amphetamines, methamphetamine and opiates in his system, officials said.
“This is a case that should have ended with the return of the truck to the aggrieved party and an amicable resolution of the dispute over possession,” officials wrote in their analysis. “When law enforcement officers arrived and tried to convince Kenneth Jr. to give back the truck, he would not comply with any verbal commands and ran away escalating a family disturbance over possession of a truck call to a foot pursuit, use of non-lethal force and ultimately deadly force.”