A rash of police shootings in San Diego

Last Thursday, a San Diego Police Department detective fired into a home before serving a drug warrant, wounding two men. The detective apparently attempted to knock on a window, causing the window to shatter. She then says she saw one of the men reaching for a gun. There were six people inside the house. None of them had a gun.

In searching for more coverage of the story, I found a number of other recent and troubling police shootings in the San Diego area. Among them:

  • Last September, a San Diego Police Department officer shot and killed a transient man who was armed with a pair of scissors.
  • Last month, deputies from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department shot and killed 33-year-old Michael Napier while serving a drug warrant. Napier was in the garage working on a bicycle when the police confronted him. They say they opened fire when he appeared to reach for his waistband. Police later reported that Napier was unarmed.
  • Last April, police in El Cajon, a town in San Diego County, fatally shot homeless man Raymond Lee Goodlow after attempting to pull him over for riding his bicycle on a sidewalk. Police say they fired because Goodlow reached into his waistband. He was not carrying a gun, although they did apparently find two knives in other parts of his clothing.
  • In another “waistband” shooting, a San Diego Police Department Officer shot and killed Angel Miguel Lopez, a fugitive parolee, last January when he fled as a SWAT team descended on the house where he was hiding out. Lopez is the least sympathetic of these victims—he had a long record, including a prison stint for armed robbery. But in the coverage of the shooting, I’ve yet to discern whether or not he was actually armed.

Still, if we dismiss the Lopez case, and even the scissors case, we still have three San Diego incidents within the last year in which police claim to have seen someone reaching for a gun, opened fire, then learned after the fact that there was no gun on or near the person they had just shot.

That seems troubling.

Radley Balko blogs about criminal justice, the drug war and civil liberties for The Washington Post. He is the author of the book "Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces."
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Radley Balko · March 3