Local News

Wednesday, Dec 05 2012 05:52 PM

Shooting of suspect who fired upon officer ruled within BPD policy

BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

A fatal officer-involved shooting in late October in which the officer was first fired upon by the suspect has been determined to be within Bakersfield Police Department policy and state and federal guidelines.

The BPD's Critical Incident Review Board announced its decision in a news release Wednesday. Officer Keith Cason has been cleared to return to duty.

New information Wednesday included that suspect Jonathan Lopez, 28, was shot three times -- once each in the leg, hip and buttocks, and was grazed once, said Police Chief Greg Williamson. Some witnesses said at the time that Cason shot Lopez while Lopez was on the ground and that he didn't have a gun, but Williamson said the investigation determined that was not the case, and it was also discovered that some witnesses had given false names and false information to media outlets.

What was eventually discovered was that Lopez did in fact have a gun, had fired at Cason and was trying to get away when he was shot, the chief said. The law allows for an officer to use deadly force to prevent a suspect's escape when the officer has probable cause to believe there is an imminent or future potential risk of serious bodily injury or death to others if the suspect is not immediately apprehended.

Williamson said Cason didn't want Lopez to get away because Lopez had already used deadly force by firing upon an officer.

"There are a lot of conflicting stories out there, but Officer Cason is the only witness to this entire event," the chief said.

As for the missing gun, witnesses reported a woman had grabbed it and taken it into her apartment, wrapped it in a towel and then left it in another apartment, Williamson said. Officers found the gun in that apartment and arrested Edna Diaz on suspicion of concealing material evidence and accessory to attempted murder.

Diaz pleaded no contest last month to concealing evidence and was sentenced to 90 days in jail, according to court records.

The incident began Oct. 30 while Cason was in the area of Pacific and Miller streets and saw Lopez walking eastbound across Miller Street with a gun in his hand, police have reported. Cason ordered Lopez to stop, but Lopez ignored Cason and ran.

Police said Cason ran after Lopez through an apartment complex in the 1300 block of Niles Street, again ordering Lopez to stop. Lopez, however, continued to run and turned and fired at, but did not hit, Cason.

The officer drew his gun and returned fire, and Lopez ran in a southeastern direction. Cason continued to order Lopez to stop, and Lopez ran south into a residential area on the south side of the 1300 block of Niles Street.

As Lopez reached the south alley, Cason again ordered Lopez to stop, and then fired at him in order to prevent him from escaping, police said. Lopez was taken to a local hospital where he later died.

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