DA Rules Officer Was Justified to Shoot 25-Year-Old Suspect

A police shooting that resulted in the death of a 25-year-old suspect in 2017 was declared lawful on Feb. 26. The district attorney of Sunnyvale County, California, has now published an investigative report along with the body camera video of the shooting.

Jesus Contreras barricaded himself in an apartment bathroom. The officers made multiple attempts trying to persuade Contreras to surrender. After around five minutes of berating the officers, Contreras threw a knife in Lt. Emmett Larkin’s direction, hitting him and prompting two shots from the officer, according to the report.

Larkin and other officers entered the bathroom after a few minutes and found the suspect lying next to the toilet unconscious. It was found that one of Larkin’s shots was lethal, striking Contreras in the right upper arm.

Suspect Stabs Girlfriend and Canine

The Sunnyvale officers had responded to a report of a domestic-related stabbing in an apartment on Weddell Drive around 1 p.m. on Oct. 31, 2017, according to the report. Contreras had stabbed his ex-girlfriend with a knife in the abdomen but she managed to escape the apartment.

Once the officers arrived, they sent their K9, Jax, into the apartment. However, in the video, the dog can be heard whimpering and retreating into the living room after being stabbed by Contreras. Jax did not survive.

Background Reveals Criminal History

The suspect’s criminal history in the DA’s report revealed misdemeanor convictions such as battery and prohibited possession of ammunition or firearm and felony convictions of possession of narcotics, evading an officer, and resisting arrest. A blood test on the suspect found methamphetamine, amphetamine, and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Crystal meth
A drug user holding low-grade crystal meth tablets, known in Southeast Asia as yaba, in Muse, Shan State, along Burma’s border with China, on Jan. 11, 2019. (Ye Aung Thu/AFP/Getty Images)

The suspect barricaded himself in the bathroom with a deadly weapon, refused to comply with officer demands, assaulted officers, and killed a K9: all circumstances taken into account by District Attorney Jeffrey F. Rosen.

“Lt. Larkin had a genuine and reasonable fear for the safety of himself and other deputies when he fired his weapon at Mr. Contreras,” the report concluded. “His conduct is therefore justifiable in the defense of others and self, and no criminal liability attaches to him.”