For the fourth time in eight years, Orange County attorneys have exempted an Anaheim police officer from crime when they fatally shot and killed a suspect on duty, authorities said Tuesday.
Police officer Nick Bennallack, who had been freed from three further fatal shootings of suspects on duty since 2012, fatally shot 30-year-old Daniel Ramirez III on April 4, 2019.
In a letter dated August 13 and made public Tuesday, prosecutors informed Anaheim Police Department chief Jorge Cisneros that Bennallack had been cleared of all criminal liability for Ramirez's death.
Assistant District Attorney Andrew Bugman noted in the letter that not only was there "insufficient evidence" to show that Bennallack was criminally guilty, but that "there is substantial evidence that Officer Bennallack's actions were appropriate in the circumstances, were necessary and justified … "
A federal court jury awarded $ 200,000 in November 2017 to the family of 25-year-old Manuel Angel Diaz, who was fatally shot by Bennallack on July 21, 2012. The jury had previously determined that Bennnallack had used excessive force.
An earlier trial found Bennallack did not use excessive force, but the Ninth Circle Court of Appeals overturned it because the jury heard about Diaz's gang history. In the second trial, the gang's background was not presented to the jury until the damages stage.
One day after Diaz & # 39; shooting, another Anaheim police officer fatally shot 21-year-old Joel Acevedo at the end of a chase using stolen cars and touching demonstrations for several days alleging excessive police violence. Some of these protests have turned violent.
In June 2015, Orange County prosecutors concluded that Bennallack and five other colleagues were warranted when they fatally shot and killed 43-year-old Steen Thomas Parker on September 19, 2014.
In the incident, Parker was fatally shot after refusing repeated orders to surrender and when he turned down non-lethal weapons, prosecutors said. Parker opened fire on officers when he was hit by a beanbag chair, prosecutors said.
In December 2012, Bennallack was cleared of crime on January 7, 2012 when 36-year-old Bernie Villegas was shot dead.
In the Ramirez shooting, the conflict sparked when Irvine police were in Anaheim to issue a search warrant at 547 N. Harcourt St. for theft of a vehicle in March 2019, Bugman wrote.
The video surveillance gave a tip to people in a garage at the place where the police were out. Ramirez and another man climbed an attic to hide, Bugman said.
The other suspect eventually surrendered without injury, Bugman said.
The garage, which was being converted into an apartment, was dark and crowded, Bugman said. Police later found a loaded rifle and ammunition in the garage, Bugman said.
SWAT officers used pepper balls to rinse the first suspect.
However, Ramirez was more stubborn and threatened to "shoot" if police didn't leave, Bugman said.
Ramirez finally came down after police said they would let him smoke a cigarette in front of the jail, but he would not lie on the floor as the police ordered, Bugman wrote.
Instead, Ramirez turned and ran to the back of the garage, causing an officer to shoot the suspect with a sponge projectile that hit him in the lower right back and triggered a scream from Ramirez, Bugman wrote.
Ramirez then appeared to be reaching for his waist, so the officer shot Ramirez again with a non-fatal round, Bugman said.
"Officer Bennallack, who also saw Ramirez reach for his waist and saw a bulge in Ramirez's waistband above his buttocks, believed Ramirez was hiding a gun," Bugman wrote.
"Officer Bennallack yelled, 'He has a gun' and then fired five rounds from his rifle at Ramirez."
Ramirez was pronounced dead at the scene, Bugman said.
"Although no gun was found on Ramirez, a subsequent search revealed two additional loaded firearms in the garage," Bugman said.
A revolver found was "taped and faced in a position where it could be quickly restored and used immediately," Bugman said.
An autopsy revealed that Ramirez had amphetamine and methamphetamine in his system.