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Prosecutors Say Fatal Shooting By Police In Santa Barbara County Justified

Santa Barbara County prosecutors say police officers acted legally when they shot to death a man charging at them with a knife.

Santa Maria Police were called to South Broadway Street last July 20th by reports of a suspicious man at two bank branches. Two police officers found Javier Garcia Gaona in the street’s center divider, armed with a large knife. He refused orders to drop it, and told police he wanted them to shoot him. A standoff began.

Officers couldn’t get him to surrender, and beanbag rounds failed to subdue Gaona. Eventually, police say he charged at them, and even though they tried to back away, they say they were forced to open fire. He was hit multiple times and pronounced dead at the scene. An autopsy showed he was under the influence of methamphetamine.

Police had to disperse a mob which formed at the scene of the shooting, with some people claiming it was racially motivated. But, investigators say officers acted reasonably in defending themselves against a charging man armed with a knife.